Wikipedia vs. FBI recalls The Onion vs. President Bush
The FBI recently wrote the Wikimedia Foundation to demand they remove the FBI’s insignia. The WMF and the Internet collectively laughed:
On the blog BoingBoing, Rob Beschizza writes that this is a no-win situation for the FBI.
“The part that’s hard to understand is why the FBI would seek to abuse the law in such petulant fashion,” he writes, “knowing that it will be subject to public ridicule for its actions.”
The magazine Vanity Fair posted the FBI’s seal on its website in a symbol of jest. And, as the blog Geekosystem says, an editor on the site aggregator Reddit jokes that maybe the FBI got Wikipedia confused with WikiLeaks — the site that’s been causing a stir lately over leaked war documents.
Cindy Cohn, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the New York Times, which first reported this story, that she found the whole ordeal to be “silly” and “troubling.” [This reminds me of how the Bush Administration sent a similar letter to the satirical news organization The Onion over use of the Presidential Seal. From the October 25, 2005 New York Times:
The newspaper regularly produces a parody of President Bush’s weekly radio address on its Web site, where it has a picture of President Bush and the official insignia.
“It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site,” Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton’s office was also helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court nominee; days later his boss, Harriet E. Miers, was nominated.)
Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal “is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.” Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception. [....]
“It is inconceivable that anyone would think that, by using the seal, The Onion intends to ‘convey… sponsorship or approval’ by the president,” wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper’s lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: “Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country.”
It’s hard to understand how these sorts of letters to widely-followed media outlets like Wikipedia and The Onion do anything other than make the agencies targets of ridicule.
Besides, both the FBI insignia and the Presidential seal are widely reproduced all over the Internet.
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