White House Threatens Blog For Accurately Using White House Logo

from the feeling-safer? dept

Last year, we wrote about the FBI threatening Wikipedia for having the FBI logo on its site. Wikipedia, thanks to its General Counsel Mike Godwin (of Godwin's Law fame), responded with a wonderful snarky reply. While the FBI backed down, it does not appear that the administration got the message that there are situations in which a website might post federal logos and not break the law. The latest involves the White House, who apparently got upset that blogger Keith Cowing (of SpaceRef.com -- a blog about science/space policy) included the White House logo in his post about a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In response, the White House actually called Cowing and demanded he take down the logo. In case you're wondering, this is the logo:
Now, this is a perfectly reasonable use of the logo. We're discussing it, and it's relevant to the news story. It was also relevant to Cowing's post. The issue that the White House has is with 18 U.S.C. sec. 701, which is designed to prevent someone from falsely passing themselves off as working for the government by misusing such a badge. Posting the badge on a website where it makes sense clearly does not qualify. No one was reading that blog post thinking he represented the White House. The White House also mentioned the "proximity to advertising," suggesting they were afraid that it would be seen as being associated with the White House. However, as the EFF notes in the link above, that's a pretty ridiculous interpretation:
Cowing's use isn't deceptive either. The seal is plainly used in conjunction with the news article and the advertisement is no closer on this blog than ads are on news websites and in most newspapers and magazines for that matter. In fact, the seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States is used extensively all over the internet, sometimes even in promixity to advertising. Threatening phone calls from the White House only serve to chill free speech. Indeed, Cowing has replaced the image of the seal with a pixelated version and the words “OSTP Logo Pixelated Due to a Phone Call Complaint from the White House.”
Finally, we agree with the EFF in noting: "surely the White House has better things to do than to threaten bloggers engaged in legitimate free speech."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

    There are many more important things the White House could be doing...

    There are many more important things the White House could be doing but none are more important than defending Hollywood and IP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    surely the White House has better things to do than to threaten bloggers engaged in legitimate free speech.

    I dunno, I think peddling garbage is pretty much their modus operandi these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    DH's Love Child (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Agreed, but...

    "surely the White House has better things to do than to threaten bloggers engaged in legitimate free speech."

    I agree, however that would require them to actually put in effort because those other things are much harder to get done.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

    odd how the administration takes this erroneous stance in the face of legitimate free speech.

    Its almost as if they don't know that they have been preaching about protecting IP but not understanding what IP really is, how it is used, and what its legitimate uses are. You know, things like usage in legitimate free speech, derivative works, parody, etc, etc.

    I would move that the definitions have been colored by lobbyists for so long that the politicians no longer even have a grasp of what the truth is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Keep us posted...

    About the phone calls or demands that you get as well!! I can't wait to see those posts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    You think the politicians EVER really bothered to learn the true definitions?? With all that lobbyist money being waved in their faces???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    Usage question.

    Would it be more appropriate to redraw the eagle on the logo with a stack of cash in one foot/talon and a pair of handcuffs in the other?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    CK (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:12pm

    Employed

    They're just trying to show they're employers that yes, they are indeed tough on IP. Helps them keep their jobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:14pm

    Makes sense

    If I was leading this administration, I would be offended at being linked to it as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Matthew (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:14pm

    legal advice needed:

    Is, "No. That's stupid." a valid legal rebuttal, or does it have to be more formal?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    So that's what Obama meant this morning when, after releasing his birth certificate said "we do not have time for this silliness" because "we’ve got better stuff to do."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

    Ah. My taxes put to good use.

    "According to Cowing, White House staffer Rick Weiss objected to the seal’s placement in proximity to an ad, which White House lawyers worried might be construed as an endorsement of the product."

    Lawyers? As in plural?

    Question 1: More than one so-called legal expert made this mistake?

    Question 2: At least three white house employees (Weiss and his lawyer buddies) wasted their taxpayer-funded time chasing down the use of a government logo in some guy's blog entry? It's a good thing there aren't any bigger problems they should be spending time on (e.g. fixing poverty, corruption, war, etc.).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    PlagueSD, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

    The white house administration is worried about someone mis-using the logo, yet (although I've never tried going there) www.whitehouse.com is a porn site last I heard, and that's apperently ok with them???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Re:

    How else would politicians learn definitions without having them written on money?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Jordan (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 4:57pm

    The White House also mentioned the "proximity to advertising," suggesting they were afraid that it would be seen as being associated with the White House.

    Dammit this administration was bought and paid for by Pepsi, not Coke. Call the lawyers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 5:26pm

    "Finally, we agree with the EFF in noting: "surely the White House has better things to do than to threaten bloggers engaged in legitimate free speech."

    No. These morons can't ever seem to catch real criminals so they have to do something to look useful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    athe (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 6:17pm

    Re: Ah. My taxes put to good use.

    They are working on fixing corruption - fixing it so that all politicians are corrupt. It's just that Wyden wont tow the "company" line...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Miko, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 6:42pm

    From the government's perspective, stopping distribution of this image is actually a very important goal. They have no special power over the rest of us, yet nonetheless manage to enforce laws restricting how we use our technology, prosecute war crimes all over the world, and steal trillions of dollars in taxes. How are they able to do this? By convincing people that they are somehow magic, that even their logo is an object of reverence. If it's something that we're able to discuss prosaically, the next thing you know we'll all decide en masse to start ignoring the government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    articles design, Jan 19th, 2012 @ 4:13am

    Articles

    I taught junior high students with learning disabilities and helped them
    overcome their reading problems, but they still could not spell well.
    I have to admit that I am a culprit of a few of these.
    It's funny that I didn't realize until now that I was making a mistake!
    Thanks for the post. Here's to a better-spelled 2012.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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