Reproductions of 1950s mug shots: Art or invasion of privacy?

Two young women in Cincinnati are testing the fringes of Fabulous Fifties nostalgia by selling reproductions of 1955 police mug shots. And their company, Larken Design, has found such a good response here that it is expanding. …

But as the business grows, it raises questions with no clear answers about the legality and propriety of distributing government property like mug shots, which are increasingly popular enticements to Web sites like The Smoking Gun.

Should there be privacy protection for the subjects, as well as safeguards to the way public agencies dispose of potentially embarrassing “hard copies” of records, in an age known for using digital technology to recycle found images into art? And, even when it is not the intent, does finding a new use for material like an old mug shot amount to profiting off someone else’s ancient misfortune?

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