AfterDawn: Tech news

Wikipedia lawyer Godwin schools FBI on the law

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 03 Aug 2010 14:55 User comments (26)

Wikipedia lawyer Godwin schools FBI on the law Wikipedia lawyer Mike Godwin recently sent a letter to FBI Deputy Director David Larson rejecting a demand that the community authored online encyclopedia remove an image of the FBI seal from their article on the agency.
You may already know of Mike Godwin from the many internet references to Godwin's Law, which states, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Responding to an earlier letter from Deputy Director Larson, Godwin took him to task for using "creative editing" of US law as proof of authority over use of the seal.

The portion of the US Code in question, 18 USC Section 701, makes it a crime to manufacture, sell or possess a badge, identification card or other insignia used to denote an official representative of a US government agency.

Godwin noted that the statutory language, "badge, identification card, or other insignia" was altered to simply read, "insignia" in Larson's letter.

He went on to explain, "You will note that the phrase “or other” precedes the word “insignia”, both of which follow the enumerated items “badges” and “identification cards.” This constrains the definition of insignia to those objects which are similar in nature to badges and identification cards. This definition comports with case law interpreting 701."

He also pointed out that the FBI seal is displayed on many other websites, including that of Encyclopedia Brittanica.

He concluded the letter saying, "[Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons] are in contact with outside counsel in this matter, and we are prepared to argue our view in court."

Previous Next  

26 user comments

13.8.2010 16:27

I'm making my badge before it gets removed

23.8.2010 16:29

OH Snap!

33.8.2010 17:26

Godwin - 1
FBI - 0

And to clear things up and to put the claim the FBI made to bed,
MILLIONS of websites have linked to the FBI seal, you guys should start a hiring campain to deal with the MILLIONS of cases this will probabaly cause.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 03 Aug 2010 @ 17:26

43.8.2010 17:34

Lol shame.

53.8.2010 17:58
slackdast
Inactive

word, stand up to bullies.

It's time our law enforcement actually understood the laws they are enforcing, imo.

63.8.2010 18:48

Quote:
It's time our law enforcement actually understood the laws they are enforcing, imo.
That'll be the day...

73.8.2010 19:11

"Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"

84.8.2010 5:54

Originally posted by slackdast:
word, stand up to bullies.

It's time our law enforcement actually understood the laws they are enforcing, imo.


Good luck...the laws in the US are so convoluted and backwards that it is essentially illegal to do anything, every law ends up being 2,000 pages long, and filled with riders that have nothing to do with the title of the bill. Often, the senator who submitted a bill has not even read it, as it is too long...and they might not even know that their "Bill to Ensure Mortgages for returning troops" now makes it illegal to drive a hybrid in Michigan. No one knows all the laws, and you can generally find several laws that a person is guilty of.

For instance, in some states, it is the law that you must pull over, fire a flare into the air, and wait 5 minutes before driving 1 mile and repeating the process. This goes back to the earliest days of the car, but the laws are still on the books, and it is still a crime if you do not go through this procedure every single mile. Considering the fact that it is also illegal to fire a flare for non-emergency purposes in some of these same states, it is theoretically impossible to drive more than one mile without breaking a law. Yes, the police don't write tickets for failure to launch a flare...but if you just dumped that cop's sister, you might still have to go to court to get your "failure to launch a flare" ticket overturned.

98.8.2010 0:05

Government gone wild...once more.

1010.8.2010 6:20

So does that make this page illegal? More goverment Bu****it http://www.google.co.uk/images?hl=en&sou...l=&oq=&gs_rfai=

1110.8.2010 7:55

How will this reflect on the Bureau of Vampire and Supernatural Affairs?

1210.8.2010 10:28

I can't add anything that hasn't already been said other than David Larson ought to have picked on someone less accustomed to dealing with bullies. You would hope that he would have been smart enough to figure that out.

1310.8.2010 10:32

The insignia was used for year and years on the old tv show "FBI"

1410.8.2010 13:55

I DL'd the logo hope that pisses them off! I wouldn't have otherwise.

1510.8.2010 14:15

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Originally posted by slackdast:
word, stand up to bullies.

It's time our law enforcement actually understood the laws they are enforcing, imo.


Good luck...the laws in the US are so convoluted and backwards that it is essentially illegal to do anything, every law ends up being 2,000 pages long, and filled with riders that have nothing to do with the title of the bill. Often, the senator who submitted a bill has not even read it, as it is too long...and they might not even know that their "Bill to Ensure Mortgages for returning troops" now makes it illegal to drive a hybrid in Michigan. No one knows all the laws, and you can generally find several laws that a person is guilty of.

For instance, in some states, it is the law that you must pull over, fire a flare into the air, and wait 5 minutes before driving 1 mile and repeating the process. This goes back to the earliest days of the car, but the laws are still on the books, and it is still a crime if you do not go through this procedure every single mile. Considering the fact that it is also illegal to fire a flare for non-emergency purposes in some of these same states, it is theoretically impossible to drive more than one mile without breaking a law. Yes, the police don't write tickets for failure to launch a flare...but if you just dumped that cop's sister, you might still have to go to court to get your "failure to launch a flare" ticket overturned.
In Long Beach, CA., a policeman gave a horse back rider a ticket for not having headlights and taillights mounted on his horse. [this was an 1850 Long Beach city law requiring illumination for horses and horse drawn vehicles within city limits.] Thankfully, the judge in the case had more brains than the cop and dismissed the charges.

1610.8.2010 14:30
KMahoney1
Inactive

FBI Fail
Godwin Win

1711.8.2010 8:48

I hope that someone can teach the FBI, CIA, NSA and Police that the law applies to them, and they can not just change it to suit their own needs.

In Alabama you can beat your wife with a stick no larger than the diameter of your thumb. And in Melbourne, Australia a taxi driver has to have a bail of hay in their boot.

California has one more stupid than any other law ever written. You can not drive a car with out a steering wheel.

1813.8.2010 10:34

you can't do anything about it if a police officer breaks the law.there are hundreds of videos of police beating people without reason on youtube.there have been cases of police tasering people without need aswell.ive heard of people filing police harassment complaints and they usually get pulled over for doing 1kmph over the speed limit and get their car searched everyday for drugs and weapons for apparently acting suspiciously.


custom built gaming pc from early 2010,ps2 with 15 games all original,ps3 500gbs with 5 games all original,yamaha amp and 5.1channel surround sound speakers,46inch sony lcd smart tv.

1913.8.2010 11:15

Originally posted by 19877891:
I hope that someone can teach the FBI, CIA, NSA and Police that the law applies to them, and they can not just change it to suit their own needs.

In Alabama you can beat your wife with a stick no larger than the diameter of your thumb. And in Melbourne, Australia a taxi driver has to have a bail of hay in their boot.

California has one more stupid than any other law ever written. You can not drive a car with out a steering wheel.
The California law was passed because in the 1970s, a custom car builder constructed a hand built car that had a central control stick similar to an old airplane. The stick controlled a hydrolic system that not only controlled the steering by moving the stick from side to side, pushing forward on the stick controlled engine speed, pulling back applied the brakes. California was concerned that there was no mechanical link between the wheels and the driver. Some people were also cutting off the top half of the steering wheel and during a quick maneuver, the ends of the cut-off wheel would catch in loose clothing and result in the loss of vehicle control.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 13 Aug 2010 @ 11:17

2013.8.2010 18:26

Driving a car without a steering wheel does sound realistic.

there have been modifications to vehicles that use a joystick to steer. i think only for show purpose but still. i could see some gear head jock say i got to have that and do it.

also self driven cars that are around the corner must also have a steering wheel in case windows 8 bluescreens...

a law in nearly every county is NO LITTERING. cops throw cig butts out the window on every corner.

2114.8.2010 22:26

the reason there are so many laws is so cops will always have some excuse for pulling you over or beating you down. the best way to combat this is to not do stupid sheeit and don't dress like a hoodlum.

2215.8.2010 10:55

i nearly got done for littering for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground.the police were annoyed with me and had me up on a bogus charge which later got thrown out of court but they made me pick up my cigarette butt and put it in my pocket.left it in the police car on my way to the station.


custom built gaming pc from early 2010,ps2 with 15 games all original,ps3 500gbs with 5 games all original,yamaha amp and 5.1channel surround sound speakers,46inch sony lcd smart tv.

2315.8.2010 15:43

Didn't he get turned by the Viet Cong when Jane Fonda was having her mood swings?

2415.8.2010 22:24

Originally posted by senator29:
Driving a car without a steering wheel does sound realistic.

there have been modifications to vehicles that use a joystick to steer. i think only for show purpose but still. i could see some gear head jock say i got to have that and do it.

also self driven cars that are around the corner must also have a steering wheel in case windows 8 bluescreens...

a law in nearly every county is NO LITTERING. cops throw cig butts out the window on every corner.
The builder was driving his creation around the streets of Los Angles even though it was originally built as a show car.

The car I have now has computer controlled timing, throttle, fuel injector, and auto transmission. I hate computer control, it flakes out every now and again. Engine goes off time, it wont shift at times, poor throttle response, costs an arm and a leg for repair or tune-up.......eeeech

2519.8.2010 23:42

Originally posted by Jemborg:
How will this reflect on the Bureau of Vampire and Supernatural Affairs?
Hahahaha! Win!

2620.8.2010 4:58

the wording is referring to things used to identify a person as an agent of the government... as such would only come into play if the website attempted to claim it is an arm of the law, a situation that I doubt even without checking

further, the emblem, which is exclusive to the government, was used to describe same organization and therefore is fair use

Comments have been disabled for this article.

News archive