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Truth Publishing Company Inc. v. Kristopher C. Campbell

Plaintiff operates a daily newspaper called THE ELKHART TRUTH in Elkhart, Indiana. Defendant publishes a periodical called I.C.U. (Indiana Criminals Uncovered) MUG SHOTS. I.C.U. MUG SHOTS apparently copies news stories relating to crime and arrests directly from Plaintiff’s paper and sells the reprints for $1.50 a copy in Elkhart.

I can see why The Elkhart Truth would get tired of sending out its reporters to dig up info only to have another local paper photocopy their stories and republish. But, on some levels, isn’t Defendant doing a public service by helping spread information about criminals? Defendant certainly considered the copyright issues, as he included the following disclaimer:

“The information provided by Indiana Criminal Uncovered (ICU) Mugshots is of public record in accordance with Indiana Code 5-14-3-5. The information relates only to arrest, bookings, and preliminary charges. It does not address guilty pleas, convictions, or criminal sentences. All persons in this publication are innocent until provent guilty”

Whether the disclaimer can protect him will be determined by this lawsuit.

Defendant is running the old-school equivalent of a criminal law blog, which of course requires a little money for printing and distribution. Defendant is correct that mug shots and arrest records are public information. However, it appeared that Defendant copied the articles directly and distributed the reprints in the same geographic market, Elkhart.

While it’s likely that some people may not buy the Truth if they can get crime news from Defendant, there is apparently a wholly separate market of people who want crime stories but not the rest of the news content contained in a regular issue of the Truth. If so, Defendant may be able to continue to serve this audience, but will probably want to do more of his own fact-finding and reporting.

Court Case Number: 3:11-cv-00017-JD-CAN
File Date: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Plaintiff: Truth Publishing Company Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Steven M. Badger of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP
Defendant: Kristopher C. Campbell
Cause: Copyright Infringement
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: Judge Jon E. DeGuilio
Referred To: Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein