Court Says Law Blocking Blogger From Displaying County Logo On Stories Violates The First Amendment

from the logo-wars dept

Governments are pretty touchy about their logos. Last year, the FBI threw a hissy fit when it discovered that Wikipedia accurately displayed its logo on a page about (you guessed it) the FBI. Similarly, the White House got upset with a blogger who used the White House logo in a post about a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. And, while there is a federal law against misuse of logos, that's for people using the logos to misrepresent themselves. Going after Wikipedia or journalists for using logos in a descriptive manner is silly.

However, Fluvanna County, Virginia, decided that it had nothing better to do than to pass an ordinance similarly banning the use of its logo, in an effort that appeared to have been directed at a blogger who used the logo... on stories about the county. Thankfully, a court has struck down the law as being a First Amendment violation:
This sweeping prohibition encompasses a substantial number of uses of the seal that would not suggest government endorsement, such as the display on a website of an exact copy of an official County news release that contains the image of the seal next to the text, or the publication in a newspaper of a photograph of a County official delivering a speech from a podium upon which the County seal is attached and visible.
The court does compare it to the similar federal law, but notes that at least the federal law makes it clear that it's only intended for use where there may be confusion over a potential endorsement. And, with that, here's the damn logo that the county can't sue us over.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 10:54pm

    I'm confused

    Was this post endorsed by Fluvanna County, Virginia?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    DA, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:07pm

    Expect a lawsuit from my office soon enough Mike.

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    SysOp (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:09pm

    It's not even illegal,

    The first step should have been this little gem right here.

    Reference: http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml

    "What is a U.S. government work?"

    A United States government work is prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person's official duties.

    It is not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no copyright restrictions on reproduction,
    derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work. Anyone may, without restriction under U.S. copyright laws:

    reproduce the work in print or digital form;
    create derivative works;
    perform the work publicly;
    display the work;
    distribute copies or digitally transfer the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.

    It goes on.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    SysOp (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:09pm

    It's not even illegal,

    The first step should have been this little gem right here.

    Reference: http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml

    "What is a U.S. government work?"

    A United States government work is prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person's official duties.

    It is not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no copyright restrictions on reproduction,
    derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work. Anyone may, without restriction under U.S. copyright laws:

    reproduce the work in print or digital form;
    create derivative works;
    perform the work publicly;
    display the work;
    distribute copies or digitally transfer the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.

    It goes on.

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    SysOp (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:11pm

    Re: It's not even illegal,

    Remove dbl post pls.

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    SysOp (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:13pm

    Re: It's not even illegal,

    Booger, Read on:

    You cannot use U.S. government trademarks or the logos of U.S. government agencies without permission. For example, you cannot use an agency logo or trademark on your social media page.


    Won't be so fast to post next time.

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    mike allen (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:49am

    Re: Re: It's not even illegal,

    just for this i will use a US gov logo just for the hell of I hope it pisses them off.

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 2:16am

    Re: Re: It's not even illegal,

    Use of Logos is governed by trademark law. You do NOT need permission to use these logos in circumstances where there is no possibility of confusion over whether you are endorsed by the government or not.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 4:41am

    At least it's clear WHY they don't want it used, it's ugly as sin.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 6:17am

    Re:

    Heh, yeah, it's a bit...meh, but it might be a historical representation of something. I dunno.

    But it made me wonder how they expect a writer to represent the subject of an article about the county should the writer wish to provide an illustration, like any other article might include a photo of its subject.

    Graphics provide a window in a wall of text, it's a design decision. What else would you use? A picture of the town hall for an article on county issues that don't happen there doesn't make visual sense. It's rather stifling, eh?

    The whole thing's silly and glad to see a court say the same.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 6:20am

    I wish...

    I really wish I had artistic skills sometimes. Yes, it's nice to be a programmer and know what a Singleton is but not many people get a charge out of it. Imagine being able to parody these government types that pass stupid laws as described. I'd love to be able to help them out with an irreverent version of their logo. For instance, wouldn't it be nice if the fruit on the Fulvanna County logo was sour grapes and the village idiot was standing outside the building looking into the cannon? I guess we'll just have to be happy with stupidity being declared unconstitutional...

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    Oblate (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 6:25am

    Re: Re: It's not even illegal,

    Maybe even more relevant is a later bullet point from that page:
    The U.S. government work designation does not apply to works of U.S. state and local governments. Works of state and local governments may be protected by copyright.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    theDude, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Its True

    "However, Fluvanna County, Virginia, decided that it had nothing better to do than to pass an ordinance similarly banning the use of its logo . . . "

    Look, Ive been to Fluvanna, they really dont have anything better to do.

     

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

  14.  
    icon
    Any Mouse (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    Re: It's not even illegal,

    Irrelevant. The county mark is not a US /Federal/ government mark. Works from other levels of government than the Feds may or may not be eligible for protection depending on state and local laws.

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    Jeffhole (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 4:32pm

    ok

    So...don't spend tourist dollars there. Check.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 3:28am

    Wow. I'm so inspired by your bravery and courage in displaying the Fluvanna County logo. Why don't you really kick it up a notch and begin linking to infringing sites since linking is not infringing .

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 3:28am

    Wow. I'm so inspired by your bravery and courage in displaying the Fluvanna County logo. Why don't you really kick it up a notch and begin linking to infringing sites since linking is not infringing .

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    anothermike, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 4:52pm

    still under copyright

    That's not the logo, it's a photograph of a sign. You can see the stone wall it's mounted on in the corners of the photo. That photo would be copyrighted.

     

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


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