Wikipedia and FBI in logo use row

FBI Seal Seal that prompted the FBI action

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A row has broken out between Wikipedia and the FBI over the use of its seal.

In a letter sent to Wikipedia's San Francisco office, the FBI said that "unauthorised reproduction of the FBI Seal was prohibited by US law".

"Whoever possesses any insignia...or any colourable imitation thereof..shall be fined...or imprisoned... or both," the FBI wrote.

However, Wikipedia denied that it had done anything wrong and said that FBI lawyers had "misquoted the law".

The issue centred on the FBI's Wikipedia entry which, in addition to information on the US bureau, also features an image of the "Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation".

The image can be viewed in four different resolutions, including a high-resolution 2000px version.

The FBI said that this was "particularly problematic, because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting violations of restrictions by Wikipedia users".

It is not yet known why the FBI has singled out Wikipedia, when the FBI seal is published on numerous other websites.

Terminology

In response, the lawyer for Wikipedia - Mike Godwin - wrote back to the bureau saying that there was a big difference between the words "problematic" and "unlawful".

"The enactment of [these laws] was intended to protect the public against the use of a recognisable assertion of authority with intent to deceive.

"The seal is in no way evidence of any 'intent to deceive', nor is it an 'assertion of authority', recognisable or otherwise," he wrote.

Mr Godwin claimed that the FBI letter sent to Wikipedia omitted key words, which changed the interpretation of the law.

"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," said Mr Godwin adding that the firm was "prepared to argue our view in court."

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