Thursday, September 05, 2013

124.4 - Clown Award: NSA blocks sale of parody t-shirt

Clown Award: NSA blocks sale of parody t-shirt

Now for one of our regular weekly features, the Clown Award, given for meritorious stupidity.

This week the big red nose goes to that praiseworthy paragon of vigorous virtue, the National Security Agency, the NSA.

This does not involve something that just happened in the past week, but news of it spread at the end of August and it's just too good to let slip away.

It turns out that back in June, shortly after the first of Edward Snowden's revelations hit the media, a company known for parody t-shirts with slogans like "Santorum Happens" reacted to the news by producing a t-shirt with a reproduction of the official NSA seal, modified to read "Peeping While You're Sleeping," along with the caption, "The NSA. The Only Part of the Government That Actually Listens."

Liberty Maniacs, the company making the shirt, offered it for sale through a popular online market site called Zazzle. Within a couple of hours of the shirt going on sale, Zazzle told Liberty Maniacs that it was taking the shirt down from the site. An exchange of emails as to why produced the response that "legal representatives from the National Security Agency" had contacted Zazzle to say that the t-shirt "contained content which infringes upon the intellectual property rights" of the NSA and "at their request," that is, the NSA's request, the shirt would no longer be sold there.

Now, this shirt would seem to be a clear case of parody, which is, based on a long string of court decisions stretching back years and a tradition stretching back even further, a protected form of free speech under the First Amendment. But not as far as the NSA is concerned. It's humorless legal stuffed shirts cited Public Law 86-36, which says you can't use the initials "NSA," the words "National Security Agency," or the NSA seal without first acquiring written permission from the Director of the agency.

At the same time, the agency whined to The Daily Dot that it had not sent a cease and desist letter to Zazzle. Of course not. They just, y'know, "requested."

By the way, if this wasn't clownish enough, the law the NSA mouthpieces cited says you can't use "NSA," "National Security Agency," or the seal, quoting, "in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use is approved, endorsed or authorized by the National Security Agency." As one commenter said,
Only a complete moron would reasonably calculate that the NSA approved, endorsed, or authorized the shirts.
A moron - or a clown.

Footnote: CafePress is selling the shirts; Zazzle has a wimped-out version without the NSA logo.


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