Department of Homeland Stupidity: Fair Use, Parody and Satire vs the Government

The Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency are using their muscle and copyright law to threaten a novelty store dealer with a lawsuit if he doesn’t stop selling items satirizing the snoopy bureaucracies.

Several offending to the gubmit (but I-am-12 funny to everyone else) hats, tee shirts and coffee mugs sport the words

Department of Homeland Stupidity

and the DHS logo, altered to give the eagle a dunce cap holding a bottle and a pot leaf, while the NSA parody tee shirts use the agency’s logo, altering the slogan to read

Peeping while your sleeping

Below the NSA logo is the slogan

The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.

Another design bears the NSA’s official seal with the slogan

Spying on You Since 1952

In 2011 the NSA sent cease-and-desist orders to claiming that Dan McCall’s parody images in his Zazzle online store violated laws against the use, mutilation, alteration or impersonation of government seals, so McCall moved the images over to his store which is a redirect from his own website, He updates images based on news stories, and shows a distinct tongue in cheek libertarian attitude, billing his gear as

Freedom Products for Liberty Lovers.

Now McCall is suing the NSA and DHS on constitutional grounds, in Federal Court. In his eight-page lawsuit seeking declaratory judgment, the satirist entrepreneur claims:

use of images of the NSA and DHS seals, whether unaltered but in combination with critical text, or altered in parodic form, did not create any likelihood of confusion about the source or sponsorship of the materials on which they were available to be printed. No reasonable viewer is likely to believe that any of the materials is affiliated with or sponsored by defendants. Nor were the seals affixed to the items to be sold with any fraudulent intent.

McCall further claims that

his images make fair use of the NSA and DHS seals “to identify federal government agencies as the subject of criticism,” and are protected by the First Amendment. And he claims it’s unconstitutional for the government to forbid him from displaying and selling his parodies to “customers who want to display the items to express their own criticisms of NSA and DHS.”

Oddly the TSA has not complained about the image parodying them:




Hat tip:

10 Responses to "Department of Homeland Stupidity: Fair Use, Parody and Satire vs the Government"
masaccio | Wednesday October 30, 2013 10:02 am 1

It’s bad enough they are undermining the rule of law. It’s worse that they can’t bear having people laugh at them.

Kit OConnell | Wednesday October 30, 2013 05:04 pm 2

It seems the future the NSA wants for us is both repressive AND humorless. Thanks for covering this.

Coach Bill | Wednesday October 30, 2013 05:05 pm 3

“The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.”

I want this one.

acmerecords | Wednesday October 30, 2013 05:08 pm 4
In response to masaccio @ 1

stranger still that serial law breakers use the ‘law’ to undermine criticism in this ‘free country’ recommended

john in sacramento | Wednesday October 30, 2013 05:15 pm 5

IANAL, but I think the two key words are

Fair Use

Twain | Wednesday October 30, 2013 05:15 pm 6

I love “Peeping While You’re Sleeping” – just wonderful. Thanks for a great laugh, Lisa

kimsarah | Wednesday October 30, 2013 05:40 pm 7

Check this out: NSA told to use 911 sound bites to justify surveillance.

spanishinquisition | Wednesday October 30, 2013 06:24 pm 8

“Oddly the TSA has not complained about the image parodying them”

Just wait until he wants to take a flight somewhere

alan1tx | Wednesday October 30, 2013 07:05 pm 9

I like how you changed the logo to the “Department of Homeland Stupidity”, and then replaced the olive branch with weed.

Should have added getting shot in the foot.

joediss7071 | Thursday October 31, 2013 07:03 am 10
In response to spanishinquisition @ 8

Where can a person seeking to express his political views get some of these McCall work, I would love to stick one of these stickers on my car…..

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