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 Zazzle.com 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 CafePress.com store which is a redirect from his own website, LibertyManiacs.com. 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: Newsvandal.com