FBI lets copyright holders download anti-piracy logo in good faith

By Aliya Sternstein

August 14, 2012

Now, with the click of a mouse, anyone who vouches to be a copyright holder can download an FBI anti-piracy insignia for display on their movies, music, apps and other digital media.

Use of the Anti-Piracy Warning Seal previously was limited to entertainment and software industry associations that had inked agreements with the bureau. As of Monday, any holder from any sector, regardless of membership in an association, can obtain the seal by checking off a box to confirm consent with a list of prohibitions and conditions. The terms of use cite, among other things, that holders cannot animate or alter the emblem, or use it on child pornography.

The seal is part of a public awareness campaign to remind consumers they are subject to fines or jail time for intellectual property infringement. Copyrighted works include films, audio recordings, electronic media, software, books and photographs. 

The symbol does not provide greater legal protections for owners or signal additional penalties for violators. Hackers and free speech activists successfully quashed bills that would have permitted the government to order Internet service providers to block certain websites trafficking in copyrighted materials. 

The insignia “simply serves as a widely recognizable reminder of the FBI’s authority and mission with respect to the protection of intellectual property rights,” bureau officials said in a statement.

Rights holders who want the logo must obtain it from the official FBI dot-gov website and paste it next to boilerplate warning language: “The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment.”

The bureau is asking that companies help prevent the proliferation of counterfeit seals by using copyright anti-circumvention or copy protection methods. Bootleggers who illegally reproduce the seal could face prison sentences or fines, FBI officials said.

Likewise, the bureau cautions noncopyright holders who display the logo to protect fair use content: “It has come to the FBI’s attention that fair use warnings accompanied by an image of the official FBI seal (or similar insignia) have been posted on various websites, giving the appearance that the FBI has created or authorized these notices to advise the public about the fair use doctrine in U.S. copyright law. These warnings are not authorized or endorsed by the FBI.”

By Aliya Sternstein

August 14, 2012