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NSA stands for No Sense of Humor
September 1, 2013 4:53 AM   Subscribe

The NSA: The only part of the government that actually listens. The NSA seal is protected by Public Law 86-36, which states that it is not permitted for “…any person to use the initials ‘NSA,’ the words ‘National Security Agency’ and the NSA seal without first acquiring written permission from the Director of NSA."
posted by three blind mice (72 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
We have been contacted by legal representatives from the National Security Agency, and at their request, have removed the product from the Zazzle Marketplace.

If that's true, they're picking their targets selectively.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:00 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


If that's true, they're picking their targets selectively.

Thanks to your comment, they'll be less selective soon!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:03 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks to your comment, they'll be less selective soon!

EFF is in the process of suing the NSA. I highly doubt that NSA is unaware of anything they're doing.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:08 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


for the record, many (or most or all) agencies have the same rule. sorry to scuttle anyone's plans for a satirical fish & wildlife t-shirt.

see eg
posted by jpe at 5:10 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the NSA actually admits that it exists?
posted by Renoroc at 5:12 AM on September 1, 2013


So the NSA actually admits that it exists?

Since the Church Committee, if memory serves.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:15 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the NSA actually admits that it exists?

Obviously you have never been to the Exhibition Hall of the Joint Mathematical Meeting. Their booth always has the best swag (Wolfram is #2)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:24 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


EFF is in the process of suing the NSA. I highly doubt that NSA is unaware of anything they're doing.

Was joke! Was joke!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:40 AM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


You too much joke! We disapproveses!
posted by Wolof at 5:46 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


If that's true, they're picking their targets selectively.

Well, the OP probably should quoted their link a bit more to give a clearer explanation:

No person may, except with the written permission
of the Director of the National Security Agency, knowingly use the
words 'National Security Agency', the initials 'NSA', the seal of
the National Security Agency, or any colorable imitation of such
words, initials, or seal in connection with any merchandise,
impersonation, solicitation, or commercial activity in a manner
reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use is
approved, endorsed, or authorized by the National Security Agency.

[emphasis mine]
posted by nightwood at 5:52 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seems to be similar laws for the Use of likenesses of the great seal of the United States, the seals of the President and Vice President, the seal of the United States Senate, the seal of the United States House of Representatives, and the seal of the United States Congress.
posted by nightwood at 5:56 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zazzle is really touchy about this sort of thing, and per one of the Updates, the NSA claims it didn't complain about this thing in particular. I would not be surprised at all if Zazzle was the one with no sense of humor.
posted by Etrigan at 5:58 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Long ago I worked for BBN, and NSA was one of our customers. But I was told never to refer to them as "NSA". It was always "Fort Meade".

I never understood that, but that's what they told me to do.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:04 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never understood that, but that's what they told me to do.

From now on I am referring to Chocolate Pickle as 85140.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


The government can't hold a copyright and wtf is not protected political speech about parodying a government logo?

Fucking bullies.
posted by spitbull at 6:17 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Careful people, the NSA can read what you type into the comment box even if you don't press "Post".
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:25 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, is this legal?

And more importantly, when I search for users with the term 'NSA' to find that, why is this the first not NSA hit?

Also, please check your user name on that list - many of you are officially on a list of the NSA.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:26 AM on September 1, 2013


The government can't hold a copyright and wtf is not protected political speech about parodying a government logo?

That's not what the law says, and it turns out the NSA didn't complain. As someone whose office is right in the middle of the tourist area of D.C., there are dozens of these such joke T-shirts for sale, from "FBI Female Body Inspector" to "No Such Agency."

These laws are written so people can't make up fake letterhead for government agencies and conduct frauds with it. Or worse:
two detectives were trying to get Herson Torres to crack. Surveillance video tied him to two attempted bank robberies in the area during the past week. The skinny 21-year-old didn’t have a criminal record and seemed nervous, but he wasn’t talking. The detectives showed him pictures of his brother and father. They told Torres he could be sent to prison for as many as 25 years.
“If I tell you, you’re not going to believe me,” Torres said. He was crying as he told them an incredible story about being recruited by the Defense Intelligence Agency to participate in a secret operation testing the security of Washington-area banks. He said he’d been assigned to rob a half-dozen banks over four days. And he told them about Theo, the man who hired him and gave all the orders—even though Torres had never met him.
Angry, his interrogators accused him of making up a ridiculous story. Still, Torres persuaded them to look at the text and e-mail messages on his cell phone; he also gave them the password to his Facebook account and urged them to retrieve a copy of the Defense Intelligence Agency immunity letter from his glove compartment.

. . . When Torres tried to recruit some friends and his brother for the mission, no one believed him—until Villegas gave him the letter from Theo. The document, on Defense Intelligence Agency stationery, explained that the agency was conducting “Operation Downstrike” with the help of “civilian volunteers” who “will be immune from civil and criminal action.” The letter helped persuade Torres’s brother-in-law to join Villegas and Torres on Wednesday to attempt more robberies. Torres stashed a copy of the letter in his glove compartment.

. . .Still, the lawyers asked for proof. Theo e-mailed the same DIA document that he’d sent Torres. They took the case.
http://mobile.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-18/in-virginias-fairfax-county-robbing-banks-for-the-cia

Somebody could have easily been slain. This was a dangerous fraud of major proportions where two men were conned into trying to rob something like 6 banks in two days.

This entire FPP was born wrong. There are serious and important reasons why you can't use the logo or name of a government agency. People have been pretending to work for the government to scam people out of money since the USA started.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:38 AM on September 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


@ spitbull: it's not about IP, but about deceptive speech, hence the requirement in the statute that the use be "reasonably calculated" to create the appearance of endorsement.

that said, it strikes me as pretty obviously a parody, so your "fucking bullies" comment is still apropos.

Zazzle could probably keep the shirt in stock and prevail if the NSA sued, but I don't really blame them for taking the path of least resistance. and the shirt designer could also use a fake seal ala the EFF shirt.
posted by jpe at 6:38 AM on September 1, 2013


@ Ironmouth: the update just tells us that the NSA didn't send a cease and desist letter; it doesn't mean they didn't express their concerns to Zazzle or request that the shirt be taken off the market.
posted by jpe at 6:41 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The government can't hold a copyright and wtf is not protected political speech about parodying a government logo?

The government can hold a copyright if they explicitly pass a law saying that X is protected by copyright of Agency Y. After all, they passed the law that defines copyright.

Seems to be similar laws for the Use of likenesses of the great seal of the United States...

True of all the departments. NASA, in particular, has a law specifically protecting its seal, and trademarking the NASA Worm and Meatball logos. Normally, the product of a public agency is in the public domain, but explicit law overrides general law, so you can't use the Meatball without permission.
posted by eriko at 6:49 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


@ Monmouth: the update just tells us that the NSA didn't send a cease and desist letter; it doesn't mean they didn't express their concerns to Zazzle or request that the shirt be taken off the market.

Let's break this down. We are supposed to believe that government lawyers somehow saw this T-shirt on a Friday afternoon within minutes of it being submitted and were able to quickly contact their bosses and get a cease and desist letter or some sort of "complaint" out? Really, as someone whose litigation opponent is in every single case the US governmennt, the scenario is laughable. They don't move that fast on really important things, let alone a single T-shirt.

What appears to have happened is that the NSA complained about another product two years ago and Zazzle reviewed it and routinely just disapproved it.

The main thing I've noticed about conspiracy theories is that the person advancing them thinks they are important enough for the Government to waste time and money going after them.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:52 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


@ Ironmouth: the update just tells us that the NSA didn't send a cease and desist letter; it doesn't mean they didn't express their concerns to Zazzle or request that the shirt be taken off the market.

Within minutes of him putting the shirt up there? Please. It isn't even actually the NSA seal. It sounds like Zazzle overreacted.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:56 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


So this is more an issue of Zazzle being cowards in the face of a potential future request by NSA?
posted by leotrotsky at 6:58 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Put another way, two days after the Guardian story first broke, the NSA General Counsel's office has no more pressing work than to keep hitting refresh on Zazzle's website to see if some dude has put up a T-shirt? They aren't all scrambling to put up the Agency's legal position in the biggest tempest to ever hit their Agency?

Usually I'm debunking these things on reddit.com/conspiracy, not the front page of MetaFilter.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:02 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


People have been pretending to work for the government to scam people out of money since the USA started.

How dare they?! That's the government's job!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:02 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


NSA stands for No Sense of Humor? Huh?

How about No Spoofs Allowed?
posted by yoink at 7:05 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]



So this is more an issue of Zazzle being cowards in the face of a potential future request by NSA?


Look at the first E-mail. They said it violated the terms of service. They said nothing about the NSA ordering them to do anything.

These laws are important. The prohibit some guy from renting and office, typing up some bullshit on letterhead and then meeting a mark with an Agency coffee mug on the desk.

For christ's sake two experienced attorneys and three ordinary citizens were taken in by the letter on faked DIA stationery. Three of those citizens attempted six bank robberies in two days based on that letter and the representations of the fraudster.

These laws are critically important and must remain on the books.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:07 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


For christ's sake two experienced attorneys [...] were taken in by the letter on faked DIA stationery

Bit of a headscratcher there.
posted by Wolof at 7:14 AM on September 1, 2013


These laws are critically important and must remain on the books.

For one, Jim Anchower-types walking around in t-shirts with the huge letters FBI on them make it really difficult for agents doing the covert undercover stings.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:17 AM on September 1, 2013


These laws are critically important and must remain on the books.

For one, Jim Anchower-types walking around in t-shirts with the huge letters FBI on them make it really difficult for agents doing the covert undercover stings.


Think of what you can do with 3 guys with white dress shirts, Khakis and those dark blue FBI windbreakers. You could come into a bank, announce that you are in a response time test and to let the next four men in to rob the bank and that you will signal the teller when to hit the alarm. Then get out a clipboard and a stopwatch.

As a guy who has his own letterhead, I meticulously cut all old copies of it to make them unusable when I moved. Its a real problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


@ Ironmouth: that timeline makes more sense. thx for explaining.
posted by jpe at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2013


This is the lamest piece of NSA outragefilter yet.

Next week's story: Did you know NSA has a private exit off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway? How did they get that? Probably secret national security letters. What happens if you turn off there by accident? Sent to Guantanamo. Also, if you speak of this on the internet, the NSA is listening and will know. Their abuse of the highway system shows just what an out-of-control agency they are.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Renoroc: So the NSA actually admits that it exists?

I guess that's not obvious to those who don't live in Maryland.
posted by spaltavian at 7:31 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle - one of the customers of my employer requests that they be referred to as 'A Utah Based Religious Organization'.
posted by wotsac at 7:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Next week's story: Did you know NSA has a private exit off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway?

I even get a 403 FORBIDDEN error on that page! How low will the NSA stoop?!??
posted by rtha at 7:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Think of what you can do with 3 guys with white dress shirts, Khakis and those dark blue FBI windbreakers. You could come into a bank, announce that you are in a response time test and to let the next four men in to rob the bank and that you will signal the teller when to hit the alarm. Then get out a clipboard and a stopwatch.

I don't work for a bank, but at my workplace, even we get advance notice when the authorities are coming in to do something that would otherwise seem suspicious. I have no reason to doubt that bank employees, of all people, wouldn't get the same heads-up.

I'd like to see some evidence that this is a standard and oft-employed bank robbery technique. Otherwise, it sounds like a rejected Michael Mann script.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:15 AM on September 1, 2013


For christ's sake two experienced attorneys and three ordinary citizens were taken in by the letter on faked DIA stationery.

Except you can't blame that entirely on "official-looking stationary"; some of it is due to an environment where something like that bogus "testing bank security" story is actually believable - a/k/a an environment where people are accustomed to the government doing whatever the hell it wants and things being "legal" as long as the government says they are legal. The guy who wrote up the fake letter did not create that environment. The corrosion of the rule of law has all kinds of indirect effects.

As for the t-shirt, yeah, it looks like Zazzle overreacted (and I doubt the NSA knew or cared about the shirt until it was brought to their attention by this kerfuffle) but when people talk about "chilling effect" they don't mean that the NSA will send cease-and-desist letters to everyone who talks crap about them, they mean people will be afraid to do so and will censor themselves. This looks like a textbook example of Zazzle being afraid to make fun of the NSA and censoring themselves; exactly what a chilling effect looks like.

The guy, however, will probably sell way more of these shirts thanks to this publicity (and thanks to Cafepress not having the same concerns as Zazzle) so it looks like a win for him.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


the NSA claims it didn't complain about this thing in particular

No, they said they didn't send a C&D letter. You gotta parse everything they say carefully. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they sent a C&D email.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2013


exactly what a chilling effect looks like.

If this were to be evidence of some fearful "chilling effect" of NSA practices, wouldn't we need at least one, actual, real-world example of the NSA unfairly or outrageously bullying someone over use of their logo, seal etc? I mean, maybe they have gone ape shit lots of times over self-evidently reasonable/satirical uses of these things--in which case it would be reasonable to suggest that this case is an example of the "chilling effect" of those other cases--but if they have done that, wouldn't it have been better to make an FPP about those other times?
posted by yoink at 8:22 AM on September 1, 2013


I can fake any piece of letterhead. Given a day or two I'll fake ypur watermark too. That's bullshit reasoning. It's ancient technology.

I'd love to see a first amendment suit here if if was a NSA complaint.

And no the government can't hold intellectual property rights in content created with public funds.
posted by spitbull at 8:25 AM on September 1, 2013


Spitbull, I can hit anyone on the head with a club; it's ancient technology. Do I have the right to do so?
posted by happyroach at 8:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Think of what you can do with 3 guys with white dress shirts, Khakis and those dark blue FBI windbreakers. You could come into a bank, announce that you are in a response time test and to let the next four men in to rob the bank and that you will signal the teller when to hit the alarm. Then get out a clipboard and a stopwatch.

I don't work for a bank, but


I have worked for a bank, and I now work for a federally-insured credit union now. There is a well-known scheme called the Bank Examiner Scam: an "official" visits a depositor, usually an elderly person, to say that her help is needed to trap an employee at her bank who has been ripping off customers. All she has to do is make a large cash withdrawal, then hand it over to the official, to be used as evidence. She is assured that there is no risk, she'll get her cash back, but not to answer any questions about the withdrawal, as this would tip off the criminal employee. If the scam is successful, the "official" takes the money and is never heard from again. Often, once the victim realizes it was a con, he or she is too embarrassed at being fooled to report the crime, which allows the con artist to continue operating.

This con has been around for decades, and is well-known in the industry. Employees are trained to watch for elderly depositors making unusually large cash withdrawals, and to warn them about the scam. We know that the authorities would never put a depositor's or a financial institution's funds at risk for training or to catch a criminal.

So, the fake stationery scam would have very little chance of succeeding if tried directly on a financial institution. As part of the Bank Examiner Scam, it would probably work.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]



The main thing I've noticed about conspiracy theories is that the person advancing them thinks they are important enough for the Government to waste time and money going after them.


They really lowered the bar on that one when the started collecting and archiving all the traffic along the network backbones. Now the 'time and money' of total surveillance of your entire 'connected' life is already spent, and any other costs to harass you are minimal.
posted by mikelieman at 8:54 AM on September 1, 2013


LOL this is great. The government apology brigade can't even let an NSA t-shirt fpp go by without jumping to their defense.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:55 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, the fake stationery scam would have very little chance of succeeding if tried directly on a financial institution. As part of the Bank Examiner Scam, it would probably work.

Seems like most of the scams presented so far are being run on individuals who don't work for a bank, and who have been conditioned to treat anyone as a potential government official who says they are.

Is that a statement about how cowed the government has the public, that it doesn't generally challenge those who say they are with the FBI, or whatever? That seems like an argument for faked logos, to help push everyone into being more cautious when dealing with people who claim they are authorities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2013


NSA stands for No Sense of Humor? Huh?

Look, H ("aitch") begins with A so what's yer damn problem?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, IANAL, but I read the statute, and the NSA seal doesn't seem to be listed anywhere under it.

Of course, legalese is what it is, what it isn't, and something to do with a camel, so I could be wrong in assuming that the NSA doesn't have a leg to stand on here, just a big stick to wield.
posted by mule98J at 9:27 AM on September 1, 2013


Is that a statement about how cowed the government has the public, that it doesn't generally challenge those who say they are with the FBI, or whatever?

Possibly, but I think the success of these scams has more to with social engineering--people see what they expect to see, whether it's an FBI agent, a FedEx driver, or IT technical support. I'm not saying that bank employees can't be scammed. They can, but this particular scam wouldn't work, because bank employees know what an FBI agent will and won't do.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:32 AM on September 1, 2013


LOL this is great. The "OMG the NSA will kill us ALL" brigade can't even let a meaningless kerfuffle over a t-shirt logo that didn't involve the NSA at all go by without seriously claiming that it is somehow evidence of the End Times that are closing upon us!
posted by yoink at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


If this were to be evidence of some fearful "chilling effect" of NSA practices, wouldn't we need at least one, actual, real-world example of the NSA unfairly or outrageously bullying someone over use of their logo, seal etc?

The impetus of these sorts of effects isn't past abuses of this specific nature (cease & desists over t-shirts, etc.), but rather the fact that we know that thanks to their backbone taps the government now has a record of everyone who has viewed these shirts, everyone who has ordered them, and all of us who have discussed it on various sites across the web.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:41 AM on September 1, 2013


Of course the law is in place for a good reason, but there is a difference between parody T-shirts and fake letterhead.

Normally, this distinction is respected, hence the multitudes of joke T-shirts, or even shirts reading just "FBI" or "DEA". The party at fault in this case seems to be Zazzle, who were afraid of any repercussions.

Chilling effects at work.
posted by anemone of the state at 10:21 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


LOL this is great. The "OMG the NSA will kill us ALL" brigade can't even let a meaningless kerfuffle over a t-shirt logo that didn't involve the NSA at all go by without seriously claiming that it is somehow evidence of the End Times that are closing upon us!

Two words: power differential. Also, who's claiming that the NSA will "kill us all"? I think the claim is "OMG the NSA will spy us ALL". Which seems to be a pretty accurate claim.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2013


the NSA claims it didn't complain about this thing in particular

No, they said they didn't send a C&D letter. You gotta parse everything they say carefully. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they sent a C&D email.


I've never sent a cease and desist E-mail in my career. I've been practicing law for a decade. Nor does the government send out a three-hours-later anything. They first go up the chain, then they write the letter, then a reviewer looks at the letter, then revisions are made, it is reapproved and then sent out. The whole time frame here makes zero sense.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]



The impetus of these sorts of effects isn't past abuses of this specific nature (cease & desists over t-shirts, etc.), but rather the fact that we know that thanks to their backbone taps the government now has a record of everyone who has viewed these shirts, everyone who has ordered them, and all of us who have discussed it on various sites across the web.


Except we know from the reported facts that they do not know that. They have three programs of major scope. One saves the record of a number calling another number in the US. A second, PRISM, monitors overseas contacts to and from the US, including internet searches, a third, ECHELON monitors satellite-to-ground comms outside the US.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:56 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is that a statement about how cowed the government has the public, that it doesn't generally challenge those who say they are with the FBI, or whatever?

The fact that any idiot can claim the NSA shut his T-shirt stuff down with one company and then after its debunked, people try endlessly to undebunk it and blame the NSA for it seems to show there's no chilling effect. People are blaming the NSA for everything these days. If this is getting chilled, we have some super-incompetent chillers out there.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:59 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except we know from the reported facts that they do not know that.

I don't think you can say this authoritatively. We know from reported facts that they have backbone taps, there's no debate about that anymore.

"U.S. intelligence officials have declassified a secret court opinion that both chastises the National Security Agency for misleading the court and highlights an eavesdropping program in which authorities have direct access to “upstream” internet communications."

The Wired article focuses on email, but the scope of what's being tapped is defined as "a complement of 'packets' traversing the Internet that together may be understood by a device on the Internet and, where applicable, rendered in an intelligible form to the user of that device." (page 28) This is basically a definition of TCP/IP, which is the networking protocol at the heart of the internet. All network traffic meets this definition.

The vast majority of internet traffic by bandwidth consists of streaming binary data. If you exclude that and focus only on the textual content - the HTTP, SMTP, Jabber, etc. traffic - you're talking about a data set that is significant but scoped similarly to other significant data sets such as Google's search index. If you want to data mine network traffic, you need to store it so that you can assemble it all into a coherent sequence for analysis. The nature of network traffic is such that simply analyzing it as it is received is insufficient if you want to identify graphs of communicating participants.

Also from the opinion: "The sheer volume of transactions acquired by the NSA through its upstream collection is such that any meaningful review of the entire body of transactions is not feasible. As a result, the Court cannot know for certain the exact number of wholly domestic communications acquired through this collection, nor can it know the number of non-target communications acquired or the extent to which those communications are to or from United States persons or persons in the United States." (pages 31-32)

We know they have so much data that they can't analyze it all to determine if it has been legitimately collected. We know they have backbone taps. We know they're investing billions in data centers.

I sure hope those 3 programs are the full extent of it and that nothing else is leaked over the coming months, because they have the keys to the kingdom and are limited only by desire and inventiveness.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:47 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really, as someone whose litigation opponent is in every single case the US governmennt, the scenario is laughable. They don't move that fast on really important things, let alone a single T-shirt.

The government is not a monolithic entity, it's got millions of people in their employ. Some of them could be more watchful for this kind of thing than others.

What appears to have happened is that the NSA complained about another product two years ago and Zazzle reviewed it and routinely just disapproved it.

Emphasis on "appears." Anyway, even if Zazzle overreacted, it's because a law exists. (And it may well even be a generally good law. It may just be an unfortunate effect of that law. These are everywhere.)

The main thing I've noticed about conspiracy theories is that the person advancing them thinks they are important enough for the Government to waste time and money going after them.

Oh yes. Except when we found out the NSA was spending so much time and money spying on the population, a lot of crazy things started seeming more plausible. It's probably Zazzle overreacting, but now, we're not as certain as we were six months ago. An increasing number of people have moved over into the "crazy" camp, and it's becoming more and more difficult to blame them.
posted by JHarris at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the customers of my employer requests that they be referred to as 'A Utah Based Religious Organization'.


Baha'i?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:17 PM on September 1, 2013


How is the Baha’i faith a ‘Utah Based Religious Organization?’ I think you've made a mistake.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2013


A love letter to the NSA agent who is monitoring my online activity.

"To you, NSA stands for National Security Agency, but to me it means, 'No Strings Attached.'"
posted by homunculus at 12:41 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Domestic Surveillance Directorate

The Definitive NSA Parody Site Is Actually Informative
posted by homunculus at 12:43 PM on September 1, 2013


'Hello, NSA? I have lost an email, can you help me find it?'--Dutch-Iranian filmmaker trolls NSA
posted by homunculus at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was an amazing trolling job. Totally unfazed.
posted by anemone of the state at 1:02 PM on September 1, 2013


Seems to be similar laws for the Use of likenesses of the great seal of the United States, the seals of the President and Vice President

Yet I do a Google Image Search for "SNL president sketch" and I see an awful lot of pictures of the Presidential Seal next to several comedians. They must have a waiver?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:02 PM on September 1, 2013


homunculus' last link is what I'd expected to see when I saw the title of this post...

Chilling Effects?
Yes, there is a very high likelihood that Zazzle has been pre-chilled. It IS Zazzle we're talking about, after all. And Cafepress was just fine with the design and it's been getting C&Ds for years longer, so I smell Brazen Publicity Play here.

(Still, 11 some-lengthy comments from one user debunking the story verges on "protesteth too much"; I just hope he can bill his services by the hour...)

users with the term 'NSA'
well, I have NES... as do 578 other MeFites...

Only 3 FBIs (one of which uses it AS FBI), 203 CIAs (half of whom has "cia" as part of the user's REAL name), 43 DODs (that's Department of Defense), 3 DOJs (Department of Justice), and 13 CBOs (the Congressional Budget Office, which is working full-time trying to explain why the Congresscritters they work for are full of shit)... and whattheheck, 9 CSIs...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:49 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know about Zazzle, but I recently discovered that Spreadshirt won't let you use the word 'Helvetica' on a shirt if it's in reference to a typeface.
posted by Hogshead at 2:20 PM on September 1, 2013


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Come get me.
posted by ed at 2:33 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


My experience with online "print on demand" places (several different ones) is they fold instantly and with great prejudice the second someone clears their throat, or one of their very crude filters flags something. (I'd be a little surprised if you could even print a shirt with your name on it, if your name was "Ford", or you wanted to print a picture of a golden delicious apple at Cafe Press.)
posted by maxwelton at 3:18 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't speak to any government conspiracy, but as a guy who makes t-shirts, I can say that erring on the side of caution regarding logos and such isn't such a bad play. Those "clients from hell" type sites aren't exaggerating: you'd be surprised how many people think Google image search works like the flash catalogues at a tattoo parlor, and the rest of them seem to think "Fair Use!" acts like a safe-word against any possible legal action.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2013


Zazzle's products really really suck anyways. I once ordered a neck tie from them once, talk about cheap ass crap. I've created better quality neck ties for playa gifts with a basic screen printing kit sans photo emulsion chemicals. Zazzle sucks.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:46 AM on September 5, 2013


The Copyright Monopoly Was Created As A Censorship Instrument – And Is Still Used As One
posted by jeffburdges at 3:42 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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