Extra Extra: The FBI’s Most Wanted

“In a letter sent to Wikipedia’s San Francisco office, the FBI said
that ‘unauthorised reproduction of the FBI Seal was prohibited by US
law,’ the BBC reported today. “‘Whoever possesses any insignia…or any
colourable imitation thereof..shall be fined…or imprisoned… or both.’”

Them’s fighting words. But why? The problem stems from FBI’s Wikipedia entry which, in addition to providing public information, also features an image of the Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The BBC notes, The FBI said that this was “particularly problematic,
because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting violations of
restrictions by Wikipedia users.”

But what about all those unofficial uses, like the FBI Seal Generator or All Free Logo and scores of other sites?

Is this protection of real copyright? Does the FBI own its seal or do the American people?

Mike Godwin, Wikipedia’s attorney, stated:

“”We are compelled as a matter of law and principle to
deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and
Wikimedia Commons,”

He added that Wikipedia is:

“…prepared to argue our view in court.”

 


About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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