Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bang, Bang! FBI Tells Wikipedia To Remove Insignia From Its Article About FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation fired off a letter in late July to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia telling it to cease and desist displaying the agency's seal, and noting that "[t]he FBI Seal is an official insignia of the Department of Justice. Its primary purpose is to authenticate the official communications and actions of the F.B.I." Wikipedia's lawyer Mike Godwin fired back, saying very politely, "We don't agree with your reading of the statute." The New York Times, BBC, and CNN are now covering this dust-up, and Wikipedia (via Wikimedia Commons) has happily included the dispute in its discussion of the FBI here. (Note the NYT, BBC and CNN all use photos of the seal to illustrate their coverage of the flap. Nice touch.)

In his reply to FBI counsel, Mr. Godwin notes that the Encyclopedia Britannica online also displays the seal. Both websites do so for illustrative purposes only. Images of the seal are actually available throughout the net. Download it here.  Get it mounted on a plaque here. One site has the FBI Seal, the Presidential Seal, and possibly others. I tried searching "FBI badge" as well. Interesting results.

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