NSA, DHS Settle in Suit Fighting Back Against Their Attempt to Silence Parody Merchandise


Happy followup to a story I blogged back in November, about Dan McCall of "Libertymaniacs.com" who was warned by the NSA and DHS to cease selling merchandise parodying them–and who fought back with a lawsuit.

Now, SCTimes.com reports, the agencies have settled:

According to a Maryland District Court settlement agreement executed Tuesday by the United States Attorney's office, the NSA will formally issue a letter to McCall's merchandise producer — Zazzle.com — indicating its previous accusation that McCall's material was in violation of federal law was inaccurate.

McCall also will receive $500 to cover his court costs in filing the suit, with the help of Public Citizen, a government watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C. The agreement stipulates that McCall drop his suit and the NSA and DHS admit no liability to him.

"They basically gave me everything I was asking for," McCall said. "It's a victory for First Amendment rights. We're pretty excited. I know my lawyer is, and I am, too. We think it's going to make a little bit of a difference. I think this case showed the hush that can happen on the Web when people attempt to satire or write stuff…."

Good for McCall, and I hope his example emboldens others in the future.

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  1. It’s not clear to me how a one-time payout of $500 in taxpayer funds for admitted violations of Constitutional rights is a “victory for First Amendment rights”. It;’s not like this settlement will prevent future unconstitutional bullying by the state.

    1. Because a $500 payout of taxpayer funds is a lot better than what would have cost much more had they decided to go the FYTW route?

    2. It’s not the $500. It’s the embarrassing letter they had to send to Zazzle.

  2. This was a no-brainer. I guess the Feds assumed the defendant was unaware of copyright laws and thought they could scare him into giving up.

  3. $500 plus a free lifetime subscription to 24/7 electronic monitoring.

    1. We are at the point whhere we can start repurposing Soviet Russian or East German political jokes. Here’s one for this case.
      East German boss Honecker and secret police chief Mielke are making small talk.

      “I have a hobby”, says Honecker, “I collect the jokes about me.”

      Mielke says, “I have a hobby, too. I collect people who tell the jokes”.

  4. I’m trying to imagine what would happen to me if I sent out a legally baseless cease and desist letter on my company’s letterhead. I’m thinking it wouldn’t be pretty. I’m absolutely sure the same thing happened to the lawyer(s) that wrote this one.

  5. He’ll be up on unrelated charges before you know it.

  6. “Good for McCall, and I hope his example emboldens others in the future.”

    I was emboldened … and the results weren’t so great for me!

    Alas, although the NSA and DHS may now stoop to permit parody, Zazzle still does not. I, too, am a shopkeeper at Zazzle, as Dan McCall used to be, and when I read the supposedly good news Tuesday of the court decision, I promptly recreated a design for my on-line shop that Zazzle had deleted last year on the grounds that it incorporated the taboo term “NSA”. (In fact, they soon thereafter deleted an alternative version using “N.S.A.” instead — despite the fact that that text is clearly not covered in Sec. 15. (a) of the NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ACT OF 1959, PL 86-36.) Anyhow, I recreated the original version (“On the Internet, the NSA knows you’re a dog”) and even included within the description, as the first tag, “PARODY”, and cited the “McCall v. National Security Agency” decision, complete with links, for good measure.

    Naturally, Zazzle deletes my design yet again on Wednesday, stating, as they have before, “We have been contacted by the intellectual property right holder and we will be removing your product from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to infringement claims.”

    So is the NSA still up to its dirty tricks, settlement be damned, or is Zazzle doing this on its own extralegal initiative? No idea, but if there’s a class-action lawsuit here, I suspect I’d jump to join it.

  7. http://www.americansrighttoprivacy.com offers 100% guaranteed online privacy because our servers are located in Switzerland, a safehaven for secure digital communications. As a law abiding citizen, you can be sure your digital data is safe from any agency, business, or anyone at all wanting to retrieve your information. Access to your online data communications by any authority requires an official warrant issued by a federal judge of Switzerland while most countries surrender your data without consent.

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