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Is it legal to use the FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal to discourage piracy or as a reference image without permission?

Loxley, AL |

I'm working on a reference book for writers. One of the people submitting material for the book suggests putting a copy of the FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal on your site. They also want to use the picture in the book as a reference.

First, is it legal to put the seal on your site to discourage piracy and second, can I use it in the book as a reference picture (probably about 1.5 to 2 inches square)?

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

First, no.
Second, it depends on context.

Right now the FBI has only authorized certain organizations to use the seal; if you're a member of any of them you should contact the organization to discuss it (the list in the link below). The lack of permission extends to websites. It is illegal to use the FBI Seal without permission.

The FBI does, however, have a standard written warning that you can use (without the seal):
“Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.”

As for putting a picture of it in your book, it would depend on how you do it. I suggest showing an attorney how you intend to use it in context.

You should carefully vet the people submitting materials for your book to make sure that they're not giving advice that they have no business giving (such as a non-lawyer trying to give legal advice).

For more information, the FBI's website may be useful. I've linked their webpage on the warning below.

For a consultation, e-mail adam@fw-pc.com to set up an appointment. This answer is provided based on limited facts and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor should it be relied on as legal advice. It is only a generalized, cursory examination and is not a substitute for retaining a licensed attorney.

Posted

No. The FBI has a licensing program pursuant to which it may decide to license u se of this seal. However, you are forbidden from using it without permission. The FBI notes, however, that until you are granted a license by the FBI, it is perfectly fine for anyone, without FBI approval, to use the following generic language on material protected under U.S. copyright law: “Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.” You cannot use the seal in your book as a reference picture until you are granted permission to do so.

Asker

Posted

I was pretty sure that was the answer, but needed to be sure. Thanks.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Asker, The generic warning is scary enough. Willful infringers and online pirates will ignore all of it, anyway, and the more important items for statutory damages are the copyright notice and getting the item registered.

Asker

Posted

I'm by no means a lawyer, but I do have a degree in Paralegal studies which gives me a strong respect for legal matters. I'd searched the internet and found conflicting information on the FBI badge. It looks like they are considering expanding the rules for using the badge/seal, but nothing out there is clear. I had already been to the FBI site, but it only gave references to laws, not rules on the logo. I agree with what you've all said and have already asked the submitter of the material to talk about the warning instead of using the image and to correct errors in their material. I'm fairly careful when it comes to anything that could be legal advice, that's why I didn't want to just use what they had given me. Thanks for all of the input.

Posted

Here is a link to the FBI's site with the answers to all your questions.
http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/ipr/anti-piracy/

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