FBI Demands Wikipedia Remove Its Seal

The Wikimedia Foundation, owner of the online encyclopedia, responded by challenging the FBI interpretation of the law governing the use of its seal.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

August 3, 2010

2 Min Read

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has demanded that Wikipedia stop using the FBI seal in articles on the online encyclopedia, or face possible legal action.

According to a letter dated July 28, FBI lawyer David C. Larson said the site is using the seal without permission from the director of the agency, as required by law. Larson sent the letter to the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns the site.

"The purpose of this letter is to advise you of these legal requirements and it seek your compliance with the law by removing the FBI seal," Larson said in the letter made available for download by The New York Times.

The agency gave Wikipedia 14 days to remove the seal. "Failure to comply may result in further legal action," the letter said.

In its response, the Wikimedia Foundation challenged the FBI interpretation of the law governing the use of its seal. The nonprofit said the law was meant to prevent people or organizations from using the seal to pose as the FBI or for commercial use. Wikimedia said it did not meet either criterion.

"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," Wikimedia lawyer Mike Goodwin said in a letter sent to the FBI. The letter, dated July 30, was also made available for download by The Times.

In response to a query by InformationWeek, Wikimedia spokesman Jay Walsh confirmed the correspondence with the FBI, and was awaiting for the FBI's response.

"As far as I'm aware we have not received any further communications from the FBI on this matter," Walsh said in an email sent Tuesday.

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