FBI demands Wikipedia remove seal graphic, battle ensues

Posted by Mike Luttrell

The Federal Bureau of Investigations does not like the fact that its Wikipedia entry has a high-resolution image of its seal, but Wikipedia says there's nothing illegal about posting it online.

The FBI apparently has no big international crime rings or investigations to conduct, because it now has free time to send a letter to Wikipedia that reads, "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."

The letter, obtained by the New York Times, goes on to say, "Failure to comply may result in further legal action. We appreciate your timely attention to this matter." The FBI references section 701 from the US Code, which prohibits the "manufacture, sale, or possession of any badge, identification card, or other insignia" of a government agency.

Wikimedia, the organization that runs the user-driven online encyclopedia, has called the letter and related legal threats completely baseless.

In a stinging response, Wikimedia general counsel Mike Godwin wrote, "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."

"The use of the image on Wikipedia is not for the purpose of deception or falsely to represent anyone as an agent of the federal government," he continues. Godwin says Wikimedia is prepared to go to court over this issue.

It is truly ridiculous that the FBI, which stands to gain absolutely nothing from this issue, is wasting its time with this. Hopefully someone in there will realize how pointless this is and just drop it.