FBI Claims Wikipedia Can't Display Its Logo
from the good-luck-on-that dept
Apparently the FBI has some free time on its hands. How else can you explain this bizarre, and almost certainly legally questionable attempt to force Wikipedia to remove its logo on Wikipedia's article on the FBI:
Wikipedia's General Counsel, Mike Godwin (yes, of Godwin's law fame) responded to the FBI with a delightfully snarky reply (pdf) noting that the FBI's reading of the law concerning displaying an FBI badge is clearly written to prevent people from falsely presenting themselves as being with the FBI or directly profiting from the use of the seal:
Godwin notes that the version of the law that the FBI conveniently sent him just happened to omit some parts of the law, which basically show that the law is entirely focused on such attempts to use the logo to deceive. Among the key passages:
Entertainingly, in support for your argument, you included a version of 701 in which you removed the very phrases that subject the statute to ejusdem generis analysis. While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version of Section 701 that you forwarded to us.Godwin also points out that the Encyclopaedia Britannica appears to have an image of the logo as well. As for our own usage here, I'll first note that the NY Times is also displaying the logo with its story, and it would seem that all three of us are similarly not running afoul of this law, in that none of us are using the logo with any attempt to deceive at all, but to display factual information for the sake of informing.
In your letter, you assert that an image of an FBI seal included in a Wikipedia article is "problematic" because "it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting violations" of 18 U.S.C. 701. I hope you will agree that the adjective "problematic," even if it were truly applicable here, is not semantically identical to "unlawful." Even if it could be proved that someone, somewhere, found a way to use a Wikipedia article illustration to facilitate a fraudulent representation, that would not render the illustration itself unlawful under the statute. As the leading case interpreting Section 701 points out, "The enactment of § 701 was intended to protect the public against the use of a recognizable assertion of authority with intent to deceive." ... Our inclusion of an image of the FBI Seal is in no way evidence of any "intent to deceive," nor is it an "assertion of authority," recognizable or otherwise.