West Virginia, like Ohio, has similar laws when it comes to publicity rights.
"Every person in West Virginia has a right to control the commercial exploitation of their images and their names," he said.
Mug shots are public record and frequently are used by news organizations.
"That's fine, because that's protected by the First Amendment right to [a free] press," he said. "In fact, if these mug shot websites simply posted the pictures of the people with no commercial exploitation, then that would be legal."
The problem is that these mug shot websites use people's images in promotional ads and for financial gain, he said.
"It's just an unacceptable use of someone's image and a personal infringement on publicity rights," he said. "That's what we are suing about."
It would be difficult for a lawyer to prove damages from copyright infringement in court. It's not difficult, however, to prove damages related to a person's name and their image, Ciolek said.
Ali Dabiri, database administrator for the state Office of Technology, said Watson maintains his websites by downloading mug shots using a "bot." These programs are capable of downloading thousands of images in a matter of seconds when the photos are entered into the state Regional Jail database.
In April, Dabiri tried to change some of the database settings to prevent Watson's programs from downloading, but it had little impact. Watson's website went offline for about a day and then came back unaffected by the changes, Dabiri said.
Mug shots here in the state are copyrighted by the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority and the West Virginia Division of Corrections.
A Gazette-Mail reporter messaged WVJail's Twitter account in April to ask about its use of the mug shots.
"We do not need permission to publish public record. This is a First Amendment right," someone there replied.
Anyone who wants to report a mug shot problem can visit Ciolek's website.
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.