A classic “Bite Me” from Wikipedia to the FBI

Back in 2010, Wikipedia drew the attention of the FBI because it included the FBI seal in the Wikipedia entry on the FBI.

FBI Deputy General Counsel David C. Larson wrote to Wikipedia demanding that Wikipedia remove the image, claiming that its use violated federal law. According to Larson’s letter, Wikipedia’s use of an image of the FBI seal violated a law that makes it illegal to make or possess badges, identification cards, or other insignia of a U.S agency’s “design.” The FBI’s version misstated the law as: “Whoever manufactures, sells, or possesses any . . . insignia, of the design prescribed by the [Department head]. . . .”

Wikimedia’s general counsel, Mike Godwin (yes, that Mike Godwin), refused. Instead, he responded with a snarky lesson in statutory construction:

May we talk a little bit further about ejusdem generis and your creative editing of the statute?

Entertainingly, in support for your argument, you included a version of 701 in which you removed the very phrases that subject the statute to ejusdem generis analysis. While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version of Section 701 that you forwarded to us.

via On Remand: Wikipedia, The FBI, And Hitler? « Above the Law: A Legal Web Site – News, Commentary, and Opinions on Law Firms, Lawyers, Law Schools, Law Suits, Judges and Courts + Career Resources.

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