NSA and DHS Tell American He Can't Sell Parody Merch with Their Logos. American Strikes Back!

They may track our every statement and hobble our every move, but the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security ought not be immune to parody, says Dan McCall. The details on his suit to protect his, and our, right to laugh at Leviathan from St. Cloud Times:

Libertymaniacs.comLibertymaniacs.com

A St. Cloud State University graduate and Sauk Rapids resident is suing the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security after they issued cease-and-desist letters against merchandise he was producing through his web-based business.

Dan McCall, who runs LibertyManiacs.com from an office in his home, filed the suit Tuesday in federal court in Baltimore. He says the agencies violated his First Amendment rights, and is being assisted in his suit by Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog organization.

McCall sells T-shirts, mugs and posters, often with satirical messages.

To ridicule electronic surveillance disclosures, he paired the NSA’s official seal on T-shirts for sale with the slogan: “The only part of the government that actually listens.”

He also has one with the sub-heading “Spying On You Since 1952,” and altered the NSA seal to read “Peeping While You’re Sleeping.”....

Zazzle, which prints some of McCall’s designs on merchandise, received the letters in 2011. Zazzle informed him of the letters in June and the company said it would no longer carry his items with the NSA seal because they infringed on the NSA’s intellectual property rights. McCall is now selling those items on on CafePress, an online business similar to Zazzle.

According to Public Citizen, the NSA and DHS threatened Zazzle with litigation or criminal prosecution unless McCall’s designs were removed.

Public Citizen claims no reasonable person would believe McCall’s graphics were produced by the NSA or DHS. The organization also believes the First Amendment guarantees McCall’s right to use the seals to identify the agencies he’s criticizing....

The lawsuit asks the court to declare provisions of the National Security Agency Act can’t stop McCall from displaying his merchandise and that two other laws are unconstitutional because the violate the First Amendment....

McCall...started selling items that combined art, politics and humor a decade ago and turned it into a full-time job in 2010. As recent as 2011, Libertymaniacs.com was on pace to generate $1 million in sales annually and had three other employees.

Reason on the NSA.

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  • Fluffy||

    http://www.theguardian.com/wor.....gn-leaders

    The NSA and the State Department have decided that it's knife time bitchez.

    Good.

    I would love to see them cut each other to ribbons.

  • Brett L||

    Yup.

  • wwhorton||

    Wait a sec. How exactly is it possible for a public, government entity to hold intellectual property? Can a federal agency file a copyright or patent application? I suspect not. Government documents are automatically part of the public domain unless they're produced by a private contractor, and even then there are specific conditions under which it would be subject to IP laws.

  • Tonio||

    My understanding was that the federal government could not copyright things. Any JD's want to weigh in on this?

  • Brett L||

    Didn't the Hell's Angels go through this where the FBI tried to copyright their logo and then sue them out of business?

  • Raven Nation||

    I know in terms of publications, you can simply use government publications word-for-word without any permissions.

  • Robert||

    Never mind federal, what about NYC MTA's ownership of "If you see something, say something"?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It's not possible unless it's an endangerment to the public (impersonation of an officer). They're just being assholes because they can.

  • some guy||

    I don't know about copyright, but federal agencies hold a bunch of patents.

  • some guy||

    Abandon all hope, ye who enter.

    And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • kinnath||

    The same way they own physical property like parks and roads and whatnot.

  • Robert||

    This is coming up a lot: patents, copyrights, & TMs asserted by gov't entities. The tricky thing is, there's nothing obviously illegal about their claims, although it sure looks like it's against the US Const.'s stated basis, i.e. to promote the useful arts. How is it supposed to help the commonweal for gov't to hold IP rights in...anything?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Just bought two.

  • Tonio||

    Anything developed by the government is a taxpayer asset. So unless he's using the seal fraudulently he's clear.

    They know they would lose in court, this is just an intimidation tactic.

  • anon||

    They know they would lose in court, this is just an intimidation tactic.

    When you have infinite money to keep your lawyers suing, I think it's more than mere intimidation.

  • paranoid android||

    Wait a sec. How exactly is it possible for a public, government entity to hold intellectual property?

    All together now:

    Because fuck you, that's why.

  • Paul.||

    This is bullshit. This isn't a first amendment issue, this IS a copyright issue, and I hold the copyright. The intellectual property can't be owned by the government, the people they serve own the copyright. Which means me.

    This is why the public sector is the new aristocracy. If the term "public property" is to retain its full meaning, then I get to use the NSA logo as I see fit.

  • kinnath||

    Trademark/Servicemark issue not copyright.

  • Paul.||

    Ok, but don't I own the trademark?

  • kinnath||

    I'm gonna guess there is some law on the books that protects the emblems and official seals of the government without forcing the government to register all of them through the USPTO.

  • tlapp||

    First they spy on you, then they trample free speech. Of course once they can tell you what you can or can't say there will be no more need for spying.

  • Paul.||

    The FEC agrees!

  • Biden's Scroteplugs||

    it's public property. which means it belongs to everyone but you.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That reminds Obama, all that NSA surveillance is copyrighted so, no leaking them. Same with Fast & Furious. Benghazi, too. AP reporter spying? Totally copyrighted. IRS bullshit is so righted d'copy. Also what's in Obamacare is intellectual property so you have no right to see any of that.

  • prolefeed||

    The intellectual property can't be owned by the government, the people they serve own the copyright. Which means me.

    That's government civics class propaganda reasoning. Let's substitute some more accurate wording that reflects reality:

    "The intellectual property can be owned by the largest organized criminal gang. The people who serve that gang don't own the copyright, even though they think they do because they think, due to government school indoctrination, that the government is the servant, not the master."

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Can I get some parody alt-text?

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Lese-majeste, bitches.

  • kinnath||

    Just tweak the emblem. Call it "National Security Apparatus" and put an dead fish in the eagle's claw. The you get fair use by way of a parody.

  • Rrabbit||

    National Stasi Agency
    National Security Assholes

  • JidaKida||

    These guys seem to know what they are talking about.

    www.PlanetAnon.tk

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