Is it Illegal to Post an Image of the FBI’s Seal?

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8 Responses

  1. shg says:

    Many of us have posted an image of the FBI seal to make a point. It probably would have been a lot more meaningful if you used fewer words and one image. Notably, your post contains no image at all.

  2. I wish I could find some high-quality legal commentary on the various conflicting assertions. To wit:

    “The statute, when quoted in full, suggests that the law’s purpose is to prevent the forgery of FBI badges and insignia, not to prevent the use of the image on a website.”

    Without taking a side, the above may beg the question, since part of the claim seems to be that a high-quality graphic facilitates forgery. A key part of the dispute appears to be whether there’s some sort of “intent” requirement, and either way (there is or there isn’t) is not obvious to me.

    (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, I just read about these issues).

  3. Dissent says:

    Given the timing of the notice, the elephant in this particular room appears to be the Wikileaks exposure of the Afghan Diary. I’m somewhat surprised that more bloggers aren’t just calling them out on what appears to me to be harassment or vindictiveness on the Obama administration’s part.

    Ridiculous, indeed.

  4. I don’t think this had anything to do with Wikileaks. In fact, that’s kind of funny if you think about it:

    “This Wikileaks scandal is so embarrassing – we must strike back somehow!”

    “I’ve got it! We’ll FORCE WIKIPEDIA to REMOVE THE FBI SEAL! That’ll show them, ha ha ha!”

  5. Ken Rhodes says:

    Because of the Third Commandment, the ancient Hebrews came up with an alternate spelling for the name of God, using only silent letters as “placeholders” for the vowels (which were not written), and thus eliminating any chance for violating the Commandment. (It is left to the reader to decide for himself whether they thought they were fooling God by using a code for His real name.)

    I suppose the FBI will next require that we stop spelling out their name, instead referring to them as “the Agency whose name may not be spoken.”

  6. sls says:

    Re Dissent: Wikileaks and Wikimedia aren’t affiliated in any way, so I doubt there’s any particular animus there. If so, then that means, first, that the military and the FBI are both more petty and better-coordinated between themselves than I would have thought, and second, that the result of that coordination is dumber than the sum of its parts. I am optimistic that this is not so.

  7. Dissent says:


    You and Seth may be right, but frankly, I would never underestimate the FBI’s capacity to be petty, nor to go after the wrong party.

    In either event, this is certainly a disturbing threat letter on a number of levels.

  8. Philosopher says:

    The “file” the FBI is asking them to take down is really just a shortcut. Files such as the FBI logo are uploaded to/accessed through Wikimedia Commons – the file on Wikipedia is merely a link to that file. In fact, the file page itself says “This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons” and provides a link to the actual file.