Wikipedia is no stranger to all manner of lawsuits. Being one of the largest websites in the world and relying exclusively on contributors for content has its risks. But getting a notice from a British museum is one thing, getting one from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is quite another.
Surprisingly though, the matter is fairly similar, the FBI is upset by Wikipedia’s use of the agency’s official seal. Thankfully, at least the FBI is not using some bogus copyright claim. Instead it’s citing a law designed to prevent the use of fake badges or unauthorized use of the agency’s seal.
The FBI sent Wikimedia, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia and similar projects, a letter asking it to remove the image of the FBI seal from the Wikipedia article dedicated to the agency and from anywhere else on the site.
“The purpose of this letter is to advise you of these legal requirements and to seek your compliance with the law by removing the, FBI Seal from the above site and any other sites under your control on which it appears. Please remove the FBI Seal from the Wikipedia site(s) within 14 days of receiving this letter,” the notice read.
However, Wikimedia notes that the law cited by the FBI letter actually intended to prevent unauthorized use of the seal in official matters and has nothing to do with the use of images of the seal online. As such, the organization has no intention to remove the image and is prepared to fight the matter in court. Wikimedia wrote to the FBI in response, pointing to the fact that the law in question doesn’t apply and informing the agency that it intends to defend its rights.
“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,” Michael Godwin, the general counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation, wrote. “In short, then, we are compelled as a matter of law and principle to deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons,” he concluded. It remains to be seen if the FBI will pursue this any further. [via The New York Times]