0 Seal of Disapproval: FBI v. Wikipedia

FBI seal, Wikipedia
Image credit: Wikipedia
The free digital library Wikipedia is being "investigated" for unlawful use of the FBI seal on its article about the bureau. According to an FBI spokesperson, "You can’t use the FBI seal, by law, unless you have the permission of the FBI director."

Although Wikipedia wasn't given permission to post the image, neither were countless other websites that also display the logo (Encyclopedia Britannica, for example).

In a recent letter to the Wikipedia Foundation, David C. Larson, an attorney for the FBI, wrote:
"The FBI has not authorized use of the FBI seal on Wikipedia. The inclusion of a high quality graphic of the FBI seal on Wikipedia is particularly problematic, because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting" copying and reprinting of the FBI's seal. (pdf here)
But Wikipedia says the law cited in the FBI's letter is intended to prevent people from flashing fake badges or profiting from the use of the seal, not website usage. Mike Godwin, Wikimedia Foundation's general counsel, fired back a response:
"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... Badges and identification cards are physical manifestations that may be used by a possessor to invoke the authority of the federal government. An encyclopedia article is not." (pdf here)
Who will win this battle? Will it eventually be decided by the courts? How much time and money will be wasted on this? I'm interested to see how it all unfolds.

Note: I thought about the ramifications of including an image with this post. Thought. I guess if Jenny's Noodle is gone from the blogosphere tomorrow, you and I will know why. (It's low-res! It's low-res!)

[via The New York Times]

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