You’d think the NSA would be good humored about this whole thing. They suck up every bit of info they can about us, which is considerable: from cell phone conversations to emails to internet browsing history to address books to contacts and friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Disqus, Reddit, Digg, and everywhere else, they know more intimate things about us and our history than our spouses and families do. They have all our financial information as well, and the IRS has shown every inclination of using such information vindictively and illegally, as have the FEC and EPA. Nothing we have that is locked or private is actually so.
The least they could do is put up with some of the humor from their sheep citizens. Gallows humor, since the NSA and the Obamanistas can harm any American they choose at their whim, and we have no possible way of defending ourselves. Poking a sharp stick in the eye of the NSA is an American’s way of going out with dignity, perishing on our own terms. Such benign protests are hardly a threat to them.
But no. The snap of a rubber glove, a firm hand on your shoulder, and the order to bend over. No humor at all.
So it was for on American named Dan McCall in Minnesota. He got the cute idea to design and sell a t-shirt design with a spoof of the NSA seal, the words around the bottom saying Peeping while you’re sleeping. Beneath the spoof seal is another good-natured jab: The only part of government that actually listens.
I know. I laughed out loud too.
The NSA did not. They sent a letter to Zazzle, who produces the shirts (and mugs, caps, etc), ordering them to cease and desist on the grounds of violating a law prohibiting the use of the NSA initials, symbols, or logo in connection with any merchandise, impersonation, solicitation, or commercial activity in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the National Security Agency.
Nobody with a brain would see the spoof NSA seal and believe it was approved or authorized by NSA. Yet the NSA made the threat, which was later followed by a letter from the American Stasi DHS. The DHS complaint was that laws (most likely regulations passed by some bureaucracy) make it illegal to mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States.
At that point, Zazzle and/or McCall thought it best to comply. That’s some pretty serious government power aimed right at your livelihood. Apparently you can’t use an exact duplicate symbol, nor can you make a spoof symbol of anything from the government.
Nice work, Commies.
Parody is generally protected speech
Courts and the law have in general given very wide latitude in the matter of parody of institutions, names, websites, logos, and so on, when it comes to a defense against copyright infringement. Weird Al Yankovic made a career out of it. Further, criticism of government and other political entities is protected political speech of the exact nature contemplated in the First Amendment. To the right is an SNL sketch of a speech by President George W Bush. On the front of the podium is a representation of the Presidential Seal. Is that a problem? Apparently not.
Not so fast
McCann has now decided to fight back, rather than surrender to governmental intimidation. He is now selling his items again, and has filed suit against the NSA and DHS on the grounds that the NSA law violates First Amendment freedom of speech, and that the DHS regulation is so broad and nonspecific as to have no legal meaning.
Here’s to you, Dan! You’re a credit to America, and you got some big brass ones.
h/t WCCO TV