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."