FBI to Wikipedia: Take down our seal (or else)
That's right, the FBI has sent a letter to Wikipedia's San Francisco office demanding that they remove the Bureau's official seal from the site. Their reasoning? They say that it's because "unauthorized reproduction of the FBI Seal is prohibited by US law." The letter also went on to say that anyone caught in violation of this law is subject to fines and/or imprisonment. So, apparently all of the movies, television shows, comic books, and encyclopedias that have ever used the seal -- without directly asking permission first -- are in complete violation of federal law, right?
Wrong, says Wikipedia/Wikimedia's lawyer, Mike Godwin (yes, that one). Godwin was quick to respond with his own letter, which declared to the FBI that he and his clients are "compelled as a matter of law and principle to deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons..." Then, presumably wielding his pen with mighty ferocity, he added that "[we] are prepared to argue our view in court."
Godwin's stance is that the FBI omitted key wording in its letter to Wikipedia when citing the law in question, which changed its very meaning. He stated that the law was originally intended "to protect the public against the use of a recognizable assertion of authority with intent to deceive." He then went on to say that the seal found on Wikipedia "is in no way evidence of any 'intent to deceive,' nor is it an 'assertion of authority,' recognizable or otherwise."
I'm no lawyer, but this feels a lot like somebody woke up last week and realized that there was this thing called "the Internet," and he didn't like the fact that his agency's official seal could be found in places other than its own website (which looks like it hasn't changed since 1992). If that isn't the case, then this may be the first case of word-profiling, which could be the beginning of the end for anything with the wiki prefix.
[via BBC News]