FBI shouts at Wikipedia

The FBI thinks the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is breaking the law by printing documents with the FBI logo on it.

In a letter to Wikipedia dated July 22 and posted by The New York Times , the FBI demanded that its official seal be removed from a Wikipedia article about the FBI because the agency had not approved use of the image.

Since the FBI has not authorised use of the FBI seal on Wikipedia, the inclusion of a high quality graphic of the FBI seal is problematic because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting “copying and reprinting” of the FBI’s seal.

In short the FBI is worried that people will use the logo to make pretend ID passes which magically people will accept as real. The letter goes on to threaten legal action if its demand is ignored.

Mike Godwin, general counsel for Wikimedia Foundation, and the bloke who came up with the internet’s Godwin’s law has told the FBI to stop being nazis.

“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,” he wrote back.

The FBI was quoting 18 USC 701 which prohibits astronauts wearing false teeth from having oral sex in zero gravity, sorry, that was the NASA regulations.

No, USC 701 forbids “the manufacture, sale, or possession of any badge, identification card, or other insignia, of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee of that agency”.

Godwin argues that the statute prohibits the unauthorised reproduction of the insignia on badges and identification cards. It does not cover publication in an encyclopaedia.

After all using an image on Wikipedia is not for the purpose of deception or falsely to represent anyone as an agent of the federal government, Godwin wrote.