Update: Dan McCall tells BenSwann.com that it is no longer just the NSA that is claiming trademark infringement. He has now had any of his shirts with DHS parodies also removed from the Zazzle marketplace. DHS is also claiming the that parodies infringe on their trademark. McCall is talking with attorneys and may take the issue to court.

Ben Swann Truth in Media

Episode 3

NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech?


Can a government agency block criticism by claiming copyright infringement? Sounds a bit ridiculous but it is happening.  The NSA is effectively stopping one small business owner from criticism, claiming that by using its name he has infringed on their copyright.

Can they do that?

The first step toward truth is to be informed.

This is a story I had a hard time believing until I looked into it for myself.  Here is the backstory.

Dan McCall is the owner of a company that makes snarky t-shirts.  The company is called Liberty Maniacs. Liberty Maniacs carry a number of t-shirts dealing with lack of privacy and the growing police state.  They sell on a site called www.Zazzle.com

None of it has been a problem—until Liberty Maniacs released a shirt called “The NSA.”

The image looks like the NSA logo but has a motto that is clearly a pun—“Peeping while you are sleeping”—followed by the phrase “The NSA, the only part of government that actually listens.”

Shortly after the shirt went online, www.Zazzle.com pulled the shirt from its website, sending this message: “Thank you for publishing products on Zazzle.

Unfortunately, it appears that your product, The NSA, contains content that is in conflict with one or more of our acceptable content guidelines. We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.

“Policy Notes: Design contains an image or text that may infringe on intellectual property rights. We have been contacted by the intellectual property right holder and we will be removing your product from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to infringement claims.”

Dan McCall, the owner of Liberty Maniacs spoke with me via Skype and says there were multiple items dealing with the NSA that were pulled down from Zazzle.

“In terms of shirts, two, and then maybe four or five bumper stickers.  Basically anything remotely relating to the NSA was taken down.  So I’m not sure if that was subsequently a blanket policy that Zazzle themselves put up because they don’t want to deal with the hassle and they didn’t want to spend time interpreting each thing knowing they would run into problems or if they were plugged into NSA legal and they were watching things as they go,” says McCall.

So to be clear, McCall was using the NSA logo, the NSA claimed copyright infringement and Zazzle.com pulled the content down.

In fairness, what McCall was doing does use the official logo of a government agency.  Can anyone just use that logo?  Actually, yes.  According to both the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the American Bar Association, “parody is recognized as a type of fair use, like other commentary and criticism, and courts recognize that a parody must often take recognizable elements from the work it comments upon.

Courts do distinguish parody from satire. Parody copies from the object it mocks…”

You can’t claim copyright infringement if your logo or image is used as part of a parody.  So the next question, is this logo a parody?

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works. Like other forms of comment or criticism, parody can provide social benefit, by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one.”

“According to the [U.S. Supreme] Court, a parody is the ‘use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works.’ Id. at 580. Like other forms of comment or criticism, parody can provide social benefit, ‘by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one.’ Id.” –Juli Wilson Marshall, Nicholas J. Siciliano, Latham & Watkins LLP

McCall says, “I tried to visually take the most obvious direction at pointing at them that I could. It was their logo.  I just tried to adulterate it a little bit and put a few jabs in there and that will be it. So it wasn’t a huge design coup and it did the job basically.”

Now, what might be the most interesting twist in this entire story is that while the NSA is claiming copyright infringement against McCall for his parody, the NSA itself is facing accusations of true copyright infringement.

Take a look at this image.  This is the official NSA logo for the Prism program. Prism is, of course, the program that deals with NSA spying via email and phone records.

According to reports from England, the Prism image used here is being used without permission.

Adam Hart Davis is a well-known BBC presenter and the image belongs to him.  Here is the Davis pic.  As you can see, the NSA image is just Davis’ picture flipped upside down.  Adam’s son, Damon, who wrote about this in the Register Newspaper, claims that the image is free for use, but a donation is requested and, at minimum, use of the image requires a link to his photo gallery and acknowledgement, none of which he has received from the NSA.

What you need to know is that because the work put out by Liberty Maniacs is clearly a parody, it is not copyright infringement.  That is the easiest part of this story.

But the bigger issue here is the issue of free speech. It is a first amendment issue. McCall sees it that way as well.

“First amendment issues affect everybody and it specifically affects everybody who is expressing themselves—any artist, whether on the right or on the left or in the middle or whatever side.  If you are not allowed to express yourself artistically or in many other ways, we have taken a turn for the worse,” says McCall.

Bottom line, there is no gray area here.  But the NSA is a very powerful government agency. They don’t need a gray area or even to be right to get companies like Zazzle.com to cooperate.

This is why Internet piracy bills like SOPA and PIPA and CISPA are so dangerous.  If those bills become law, all the feds have to do is claim copyright infringement to shut down an entire site.  They don’t have to be right.

Dan McCall’s story is just a taste of what happens when government agencies decide they will enforce laws but not be subject to them.

And that is Reality Check.







The following two tabs change content below.
Profile photo of Ben Swann
Ben Swann is an investigative journalist working tirelessly to dissolve the left/right paradigm prevalent in most mainstream media narratives. As a news reporter and anchor in the earlier days of his career, he has gained a wealth of experience while earning two Emmy Awards and two Edward R. Murrow awards. In addition to heading the Truth In Media Project, Ben is the prime anchor at WGCL-TV in Atlanta, GA. He can be seen anchoring live at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. A stream is available at cbs46.com.

Reality Check: Donald Trump May Be RIGHT on Birthright Citizenship!

Enter to win $500 of Gold or Silver from Anthem Vault!

Enter below or CLICK HERE for more details.

"Like" Ben Swann on Facebook
  • denise0513

    If the federal government is OWNED by the PEOPLE, the abc agencies are also OWNED by the people and therefore, Liberty Maniacs, as a taxpaying company and Dan McCall as a taxpayer could not have infringed on copywrite as he is a member of the group that OWNS the NSA!

    • http://www.joshuascottmccullough.com/ Josh McCullough

      I agree. We own the NSA, so we are basically spying on ourselves! So weird…

  • Gramma

    I love it when Ben proves the wrong!

  • http://greiling.me/ Michael Greiling

    Pretty slick production. Would love to see it applied to a more meaty subject matter, but I’m sure that’s coming. As a demonstration of the medium this is impressive. I like the graphical touches and the incorporated skype interview.

  • http://www.joshuascottmccullough.com/ Josh McCullough

    Nice one! I’m going to email Zazzle now and tell them I’m boycotting them since they won’t stand up for our first amendment rights. Other sites are carrying this shirt anyway, like CafePress. So Zazzle just looses some business, oh well.

  • Joe McPlumber

    Unfortunately it is not a First Amendment issue because it was Zazzle’s decision to pull the products. If this fellow silk-screened the shirts himself then there’d be nothing the NSA could do about it. Well except make his life a living hell, i suppose, slandering him with ill-gotten information and hauling him in for interviews and helping the IRS find inconsistencies in his tax returns and putting him on no-fly lists and so on but that’s a different story.

    • byoung328

      I’m not so sure about that.

      “We have been contacted by the intellectual property right holder and we
      will be removing your product from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to
      infringement claims.”

      Infringement claims are typically filed via the DMCA. If a Federal Agency filed a DMCA request claiming copyright then this could definitely be a First Amendment issue. The Government should not be abusing laws designed to protect private corporations in order to silence opposition.

      Zazzle is simply a third party tied up in this mess who just followed normal procedure when they received the DMCA request. I don’t think they should be held accountable for this in any way.

      • Joe McPlumber

        I’m 100% with you about what the govt “should not” do and IANAL, but the product was discontinued because of violation of a private AUP. That removes the Constitution from the equation unless Zazzle challenges it, e.g. does the govt really own the copyright and is this Fair Use, parody, and/or etc.

        I wouldn’t let Zazzle off the hook entirely because they *could* stand up for their customers instead of rolling over. Seems to me it’d be in their financial interest, because routine compliance only invites more of same and it’s gotta impact the bottom line.

  • libertylover

    Ben just keeps on delivering!
    Awesome job, Ben!!

  • Silverbear Heart

    This question needs to be asked and answered. the NSA seems to be doing regarding Lavabit , is requesting encryption techniques from Lavabit, in turn the NSA will provide the technology 2 one of their contractors.In turn, the contractor will study & break the encryption & technology of Lavabit The NSA contractors could incorporate the technology into their own system without adequate compensation of Lavabit , for their technology Which is basely government sponsored theft of intellectual property. – This question needs to be asked and answered.

  • El Whoppo Americano

    And another obvious point that Mr. Swann sadly fails to make here is that ALL government agencies BELONG to us, the people, the taxpayers! YES, that’s right, they exist only because we exist and we fund them. So, at the end of the day, WE OWN that logo; we own that copyright, we own that desk they sit at, we own that computer they work on, and we own every last thing they create or publish!
    When are public servants going to understand what it means to be one? That, by definition, THEY serve US, the public? They don’t get to tell us what we can or cannot do with what is rightfully ours! This “in-your-face” arrogance is simply mind-boggling to me.

    • dddienst

      All NASA Photos and video are public domain because it is paid for by tax dollars and the same goes for other governmental agencies. Either it is secret or it is public domain – no middle ground.

  • curious1

    What about the fact that OUR TAX DOLLARS PAY THE NSA!!!!

  • Guest
  • dddienst

    Copyright is broken in many ways… videoskillet blogspot com /2009 /01 /copyright-or-copywrong.html

  • Ickes Aerospace

    I would love to hear a response to this from Zazzle….

  • Jordan

    ben, do you know these platform https://subbable.com/ ?

    it’s a platform for regular donations for content creators , it can be useful

  • Alex Masters

    With one exception, works of the United States government are public
    domain. 17 U.S.C. 105. The only exception is for standard reference
    data produced by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under the Standard
    Reference Data Act, 15 U.S.C. 290e.

    However, there’s a big loophole here: while the U.S government can’t get
    copyright for its own works, it can have an existing copyright assigned
    to it. So if the U.S. government produces a work, it’s not copyrighted.
    But if an independent contractor working for the government produces a
    work, it is copyrighted, and nothing prevents that contractor from
    assigning the copyright back to the government.
    Also, there are some entities that might seem to be part of the U.S.
    government, but are not. For example, the U.S. Postal Service is no
    longer a branch of the U.S. government. The NSA however, cannot make a legitimate claim for copyright infringement.

  • Adalberto

    NSA ,FCC ,FDA ,USDA ,IRS our tax dollars pay for this big corporation to do their job right for the American citizens

    • fuckery

      But they have a monopoly and you can’t fire them.

  • Allen Piercy

    Mr. Swan, I’m grateful for your work. I do what I can to help and soon I hope to be in a situation to give more continuous support. As much as I hate daytime television, I would like to see you cover a subject/event/cause that would get you the large daytime show audience.

  • LetsTryLibertyAgain

    The NSA shirt is now available from LibertyManiacs.com through Cafe Press. Yeah!


    I’d buy one, but I’d feel guilty spending $33.48 including shipping on a T shirt when there are so many under funded liberty candidates and liberty causes. I could go $20 delivered to support Liberty Maniacs, otherwise Ben and some local candidates get my best-bang-for-the-buck liberty dollars.

    Maybe Liberty Maniacs needs to hook up with a screen printer. A good one color T shirt should be $3 to $5 wholesale, with a good profit when sold for $15 to $20.

    Great first episode of the new era. As promised, the graphics and production values are top notch. Looking forward to more episodes, and willing to fund more episodes.

  • Fruben

    BAM! Ben made the NSA look real petty and wrong there, can’t tell if this is an easy task though. Keep it up BEN!

  • americanvirtues

    1-888-8ZAZZLE (1-888-892-9953) Call zazzle and voice your opinion, let them know what they did was wrong. speak with customer service and after ask to speak with a manager

  • americanvirtues

    You can voice your opinion to Zazzle’s legat dept here via USPS which is going to be the most effective way.

    Attn: Legal Dept;
    1800 Seaport Blvd
    Redwood City, CA 94063

    • Dan McCall

      A better option would likely be to send a letter explaining your displeasure to the NSA. http://www.nsa.gov/ia/contacts/index.shtml

      While I would certainly have appreciated Zazzle Inc. declining the request to take the work down, in the end they are a business that must deal with intellectual property issues continually and sometimes have to make tough decisions in the interest of not getting sued – in this case by the most powerful and wealthy spy agency in the world.

      • americanvirtues

        You got it , I spoke with someone in management who directed me to writing the legal team, but if this is a better option for you and your business I fully support it. Thanks for the Link.

      • HP McLovincraft

        Fight the Power. Unless it’s hard.

  • Dave Drum

    My guess is that the NSA did more than whine about copyright infringement.

  • Kevin Merck

    Looks like the people at Zazzle didn’t want to be investigated by the IRS – and who could blame them.
    Call the NSA to voice your opinion.
    It’s easy. You just call your mother, tell her you want to borrow her ‘pressure cooker’ then start ranting about the NSA using a copyright infringement to quell free speech.

  • NewHampshire

    Federal and state government programs that are paid for by tax dollars are NOT subject to copyright. I have another case for Benn that does not involved selling, and is only criticism and identification, being done by a state agency on behalf of HUD, if he is interested. Please contact the NH Tea Party Coalition.

    • HP McLovincraft

      You have another case? I hope it isn’t a case of syphillis!

  • Ron Lahti

    We all need to the raise the bullsh*t flag on this! The NSA is a ‘publicly funded’ government agency. How can they claim ‘copyright infringement?’ It’s like saying everyone who publishes or manufactures anything with any of our other federal ‘public’ government agency symbols is violating copyright laws. Are we going to have every manufacturer and retailer that makes or sells any of our t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, bumper/window stickers, etc. that contains, for example, ‘U.S. Army’ or any other military service logo, from making these products available just because they have an ‘official’ emblem that is also now ‘copyrighted’ with their design? This is beyond fringe lunacy and seems as the NSA is just grasping at straws, for whatever reason. This action by our government is obnoxiously outrageous, and is nothing more than an arrogantly suppressive strong-arm tactic to infringe on the rights & liberties of the American taxpaying people!
    In those famous words of “Gomer Pyle, USMC”… ‘Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!’

  • livingfiction

    I am also of the understanding that intellectual property produced by the government with public monies is in the public domain. Just because the government misused someone else’s intellectual property doesn’t absolve it from law. So the issue is not whether what the government did is legal – clearly it is not – but that the government doesn’t feel the need to follow the law, and probably hasn’t for a long time.

  • Steve Moody

    The US government CANNOT claim copyright. Period. Anything created by the US government is automatically in the public domain.

    • RandomJerk

      Of course not, but they know that the DMCA puts the burden of proof on the accused, rather than the accuser. This was government’s giveaway to the MPAA and RIAA to stop those goshdurned MP3 downloading kids.

  • Frank_O

    Another example of our out-of-control & Unconstitutional big Federal Government.

  • Russ L. Smith

    This is just the NSA admitting they are a fascist corporation and setting the precedent claim a copyright “USA” next.

  • Sita

    Great report. Professional, informative, important issue. When I like something, I want to be able to give it a thumbs-up or mark it favorite. I don’t see a way to do that here. Is there one?


    • g.johnon

      yes, your first sentence.

      • HP McLovincraft

        No, no.

    • HP McLovincraft

      Poor Journalism, Poor English (see comments; ‘oops we sent you the wrong tshirt’). Umm. Yeah or not.

    • Terry

      Agreed Sita. Very good report. The thumbs up – down shows up as an arrow up or down below each post. Perhaps it doesn’t show up on your system? The version I see has a Share button too. Are you on a PC?

      • Sita

        Hi Terry – thanks. Yeah, PC with FireFox. I can see the arrows beneath each post – just not the video. I don’t find the share button, either, but many things that are invisible in FF show up when viewed in IE, so I’ll take it there to see. I’ll take the video over to Vimeo to view, too – that may help.

  • Terry

    I’m a Liberty loving Constitutionalist voting with my dollars. 1. I’m giving a donation to Ben Swann. 2. I’m buying the t-shirt from Mr McCall from his alternate supplier (who isn’t afraid of the NSA) http://www.cafepress.com/libertymaniacs/10128143. Consider doing the same.

    • HP McLovincraft

      Buy my official Ben Swann Powdered Spit!

      • Shane Price


        • HP McLovincraft

          witty bon mot, sir!

        • Terry

          Totally agree Shane. Good call. He’s another example of wasted Federal dollars. He’s likely an NSA shill.

  • Joe

    All you need to do is dispute the takedown notice by claiming fair use. Zazzle will let you keep it up there. It’s happened to us before and that’s how we dealt with it. No big deal.

    • Terry

      McCall was one of Zazzle’s big sellers. He too has been through this before. This time was different. Zazzle caved to the NSA. It is a big deal.

  • Mark Robert

    There’s an assault on Internet Freedoms:

    The Obama administration is circumventing Congress, and allowing the FCC to set up wireless networks in our schools

    Please call your Congressman and Senators and tell them to oppose

    Tell them to: “Oppose S. 987 (Free Flow of Information Act)”

    Tell them: The FFC has no business intervening in anything related to the Internet.

    Tell them: “We don’t want, SOPA, CISPA, PIPA or any other anti-Constitutional anti-American crap shove down our throats.”

  • Janelle Neil

    Peeping while your sleeping??? How about Peeping while you’re sleeping?

    • Dan McCall

      Thanks for mentioning that, Janelle. The actual finished shirts have the correct grammar. I goofed up sending Ben a mock up of the shirt for the story that included the typo. I didn’t catch my mistake until story ran, unfortunately. If you look at the stuff featured on our Cafepress store you’ll see that they’re correct.

      • HP McLovincraft


    • HP McLovincraft

      You can take the boy out of Faux News but you can’t take the Faux News outta the boy.

  • Joseph C. Carbone III

    What am I missing, Episode 3?

    The following link ought to bring back some memories about the NSA.

    A clip From Good Will Hunting, ‘why should you or I work for the NSA:’ http://youtu.be/UrOZllbNarw

    • workingstiffdad

      Matt Damon, Howard Zinn, and all the leftist infiltrators they carried water for are who brought us to this Orwellian nightmare. Senator McCarthy was right. Now, of 330 million Americans, the majority are afraid of their Government.

      • Joseph C. Carbone III

        Matt Damon and the rest appear to me to be controlled by delusional thinking, corrupt principles, and debase forces.

        However, when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon created Mr. Will Hunting’s story, they created a man who does a good job pointing to the murderous arrogance within our government, which is not far removed from the reality of what the current administration is doing around the world and did in Yemen.

        I wonder how President Obama would respond if his beautiful wife and daughters were caught in bomb blasts, his and the First Lady’s extended families also wiped out in the blasts, blast from cluster bombs carried by Tomahawk cruise missiles directed at him and his administration but were altogether reckless, blasts sent from a village like the one in Yemen.

        In Yemen, a village Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed and Abdulelah Haider Shaye helped expose the objects of one such premeditated attack. Possibly wiping out two families was at least one U.S. cruise missile attack in 2009 in a Yemeni village named al-Majalah, where, as a nation, we killed 21 children, 17 women, five were pregnant, six men, and three others four days later who stepped on unexploded BLU 97 A/B cluster bomblets.

        Mr. Hunting, from the movie, could not be seen as one who would endorse such a president as was then Pres. Clinton, later Pres. Bush, or currently Pres. Obama.

        Unfortunately, Matt Damon did once more support Pres. Obama’s—in second term: “I assume there will be some Supreme Court appointments in this next term,” he said. “That alone was reason to vote for him.”

        Matt Damon is woefully confused to speak kindly and apparently of a debased mind.

        Sincerely, Joseph C. Carbone III; 22 August 2013

  • Mary B

    Why can’t they use it? They (and we) paid for it

  • Reality makes you angry.

    And yet, people keep voting for Democrats and big government Republicans. So this is simply a case of us getting what we voted for. So sad.

    • Kevin Merck

      That’s not really the case.
      Most people vote for a candidate based on a few ‘hot button’ issues that they’re told are important by the MSM. They don’t vote based on every single issue, nor do they have a say in every government action their representatives are involved in.
      By voting for someone because you think gays should be able to get married, does not give your representative the right to vote for NDAA, based on your support for gay marriage.
      Public servants are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution regardless of what reasons they were voted in for.
      I personally don’t know anyone who wanted NDAA to pass’ but it passed overwhelmingly because we no longe have a representative government that

      • Sparkplug13

        NDAA was passed because Republicans tied in military paychecks to it. No NDAA, no pay for military personnel anywhere in the world, and here in America.

        Republicans/TeaParty knew exactly what they were doing when they forced that down our throats.

        So in other words, like most short-sighted pocket-constitooshunal-ists, you think no one in the military should get paid because the NDAA is unconstitutional. The premise maybe right, but the way you arrive at it, is, like most Americans, short on logical thought.

        And secondly, “Reality makes you angry” is wrong, of course; if you look at the House and Senate votes,..REPUBLICANS voted overwhelmingly for it; Dems tended to split their vote.

        See my reply to him/her for details.

        • Kevin Merck

          Your comment doesn’t make any sense. Seems to me that your way of thinking is the definition of illogical. Your wires are severely crossed if you think what you said has any bearing on what I said.
          Better change those 13 sparkplugs.

    • Sparkplug13

      1) Grouped By Vote PositionYEAs —54Alexander (R-TN)
      Ayotte (R-NH)
      Barrasso (R-WY)
      Baucus (D-MT)
      Blunt (R-MO)
      Boozman (R-AR)
      Brown (R-MA)
      Burr (R-NC)
      Chambliss (R-GA)
      Coats (R-IN)
      Coburn (R-OK)
      Cochran (R-MS)
      Collins (R-ME)
      Corker (R-TN)
      Cornyn (R-TX)
      Crapo (R-ID)
      Enzi (R-WY)
      Graham (R-SC)
      Grassley (R-IA)
      Hagan (D-NC)
      Hatch (R-UT)
      Hoeven (R-ND)
      Hutchison (R-TX)
      Inhofe (R-OK)
      Inouye (D-HI)
      Isakson (R-GA)
      Johanns (R-NE)
      Johnson (R-WI)
      Kyl (R-AZ)
      Landrieu (D-LA)
      Lee (R-UT)
      Lieberman (ID-CT)
      Lugar (R-IN)
      Manchin (D-WV)
      McCain (R-AZ)
      McConnell (R-KY)
      Moran (R-KS)
      Murkowski (R-AK)
      Nelson (D-NE)
      Paul (R-KY)
      Portman (R-OH)
      Pryor (D-AR)
      Risch (R-ID)
      Roberts (R-KS)
      Rubio (R-FL)
      Sessions (R-AL)
      Shelby (R-AL)
      Snowe (R-ME)
      Stabenow (D-MI)
      Thune (R-SD)
      Toomey (R-PA)
      Vitter (R-LA)
      Webb (D-VA)
      Wicker (R-MS)


  • Dwightmannn

    As usual, Ben is right on the mark. . . I could listen to this kind of reporting all day long. It caters to smarter and more discriminating clientele . . .

  • Dawn

    Can a government institution even claim/own copyright???

  • Palmer Eldrich

    hey man , great story – that was one hilarious t-shirt also. “…that’s listening…” so i guess the question is where can people get one ? buy though Ben swan .com

    : D

  • Palmer Eldrich

    great to see you are using Vimeo also, nice.

  • LiveFree

    How does this logo, which was developed at taxpayer expense, and is in use by an agency funded by taxpayer money, qualify as intellectual property? If anything, it’s intellectual property of the taxpayer.

    • http://socklint.com/ socklint

      There is a kind of doctrine or thinking in the federal government (at
      least historically) that all things made by the federal government are
      necessarily in the public domain: cf.
      http://www.whitehouse.gov/copyright and
      http://www.nsa.gov/terms_of_use.shtml#copyright. There are commissioned
      works where that does not hold, but generally it is the case that the
      government does not exercise copyright. (Not so the individual states.)
      This is more of a matter of trademark, but again, historically I don’t
      think that we have considered statecraft a trade to the extent that the
      state had to protect their marks.

  • Milo Minderbinder

    Ok, but where’s the rest of the story? Did anyone at benswann.com contact the NSA or Zazzle? Is McCall planning to go to court? Journalism, man.

    • HP McLovincraft

      He was a local news anchor on FAUX NEWS for a while and he was dreadful with his phoney-baloney Reality Check. The same station where his co-anchor, TweetyBird (alias) got suspended for making anti-gay slurs on her Facebook page. Are we really surprised at the lack of journalism? Just more talking points to convince welfare-addled Red Staters to contribute to the Koch-Monster and get all angry and pound the armrests on their hoverrounds.

      • alef

        hp Mclovincraft,
        very very prejudice, first of all what sites his ex co-worker have to do anything with him, secondly of he was happy there, he would’ve stayed, and third but not last, where else can you find something this good including the same reality check that you’re smashing, there’s nothing like it anywhere else!

        • HP McLovincraft

          very very Learn English; First, I think you meant ‘prejudiced’ not ‘prejudice'(sic) and second, there is no such word as ‘secondly'(sic). And third but not last, Journalistic Standards: Birds of a Feather…

          • Steven

            Remember, when you don’t have a good argument, attack someone’s spelling and grammar. Can I have a shot at it? Okay, lets go!

            1. “very very Learn English” — Why is half of this sentence in title-case, and the other half is in lower-case? The first “very” should have a capital “V”, and “learn” should be lower-case. There should also be a comma between the first “very” and the second. You should also have put “very, very” in quotations, to indicate that it was a quote. I would let this slide, however, since it’s obvious that the first two words in your argument is to poke fun at alef. — ” ‘Very, very’ learn English.”

            2. “… English; First …” — There should be no semi-colon between the first and second sentences. The second sentence is not directly related to the first; it is a separate thought. (<– That's how you use a semi-colon). Use a period there, followed by two spaces (granted, this site truncates consecutive spaces). "… English. First"

            3. "First, I think you meant 'prejudiced' not 'prejudice'(sic) and …" — There should be a comma between 'prejudice' and 'prejudiced'. There should also be a space between 'prejudice' and "(sic)" (this is a common error for people who are still transitioning from a US Keyboard Layout to a International Keyboard Layout). Finally, there should be either a semicolon or a period between this sentence and the next. In either case, you should remove the "and". If you choose to use a period, you should place two spaces after it. — "First, I think you meant 'prejudiced', not 'prejudice' (sic). Second …"

            4. "and second, there is no such word as 'secondly'(sic). And…" — This is factually incorrect. The Oxford Dictionary does, in fact, define "secondly" in the US English and British & World English versions as "in the second place (used to introduce a second point or reason)". However, the Merriam-Webster dictionary does redirect you to the definition for "second", so this one is up for debate. However, there should be a space between 'secondly' and "(sic)", and there should be two spaces after the period at the end of the sentence. — "Second, there is no such word as 'secondly' (sic). And…"

            5. "And third but not last, Journalistic Standards: Birds of a Feather…" — While I see that you're trying to poke fun at alef's use of "third but not last" (when it is, in fact, his last point), you also did a worse job at formatting it than he did. Your list format throughout the argument was inconsistent, and you began the sentence with an unnecessary "and". You should drop the "and", and capitalize "third". You should also place quotes around the "third but not last", because you are quoting someone else. Otherwise, you should place a comma after 'third', or place 'but not last' in parenthesis. — " 'Third (but not last), Journalistic Standards: Birds of a Feather…"

            All in all, your argument should read:

            Very, very learn English. First, I think you meant 'prejudiced', not 'prejudice' (sic). Second, there is no such word as 'secondly' (sic). Third (but not last), Journalistic Standards: Birds of a Feather…

            As far as the content of your message goes, it's unspectacular. You picked apart the semantics of an argument, which you clearly understood; but at no point did you even come close to forming a valid, comprehensible counter-argument. In your effort to look snarky and clever, you just looked like a pompous, arrogant douche with a mediocre grasp of the English language, at best.

            I would recommend that, in the future, you put more effort into being right and less effort into trying to be Grammar Hitler.

            I award you 2 out of 10 points, for making me write this post.

          • HP McLovincraft

            aww, did you get butthurt because I ridiculed your boyfriend?
            1. see: facetious
            2. Godwin’s Law Fail
            3. if it bothers you so badly, why are you in turn doing it yourself. see: hypocrisy
            4. pretending like you don’t understand just makes you look foolish.
            5. stop being the party of ‘English Only’ if you can’t write in English, right, yo?

          • Steven

            Item 1: That’s not what facetious means. The word you are looking for is “parody”.

            Item 2: Cry more.

            Item 3: To prove a point. See Paragraph 1:

            “Remember, when you don’t have a good argument, attack someone’s spelling and grammar. Can I have a shot at it? Okay, lets go!”

            Item 4: See Paragraph 9: “You picked apart the semantics of an argument, which you clearly understood; but at no point did you even come close to forming a valid, comprehensible counter-argument.” This is me addressing the content of your post; an action which, as I said earlier, you failed to do in yours.

            Item 5: Stop being a douche if you aren’t impeccable. Instead of picking people’s arguments apart based on semantics and spelling, make the effort to form an actual argument. That way, you’ll come across less like “that idiot who’s too busy screaming to have a conversation”, and more like “that guy who showed up with facts and logic”.

            It’s clear to me that you either don’t know how to form an argument, or you genuinely believe that the best way to convince people that you are right is by attacking them until they get fed up with your unwillingness (or, perhaps, inability) to have an actual rational discussion. Based on your lack of maturity, and internet bravado, I am inclined to believe the former.

            For that reason, alone, I’ve decided to terminate this discussion. I have no doubt that you will be inclined to respond to this post with the same ridiculous verbal flailing which you did my former, but I will not take the time to read it, as I am certain it will bring absolutely no value to this discourse.

            So, I’m going to go enjoy living my life. Good day, sir.

          • HP McLovincraft

            “Remember, when you don’t have a good argument, attack someone’s spelling and grammar. Can I have a shot at it? Okay, lets go!”

            butthurt fail.

    • alef

      very very prejudice, first of all what sites his ex co-worker have to do anything with him, secondly of he was happy there, he would’ve stayed, and third but not last, where else can you find something this good including the same reality check that you’re smashing, there’s nothing like it anywhere else!

      • alef

        this was meant for hp mc…

  • Danny Adams

    Would this actually be “copyright infringement”, or (at least theoretically) trademark infringement?

  • Just wondering

    From my experience when ever a company is contacted about one of their suppliers with copyright infringement they automatically take the product down. You as the owner of the product must go to court to prove it is legit.

  • Alex Kovalchuk

    As an artist… I can say that if you copy an alter an image (in the state of Kansas) to put your touch on it. It is yours, not the original copyright owner. I’m not up to the challenge for NSA as of yet. However the first (not last) amendment states;

    The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.

    The Bill of Rights was originally proposed as a measure to assuage Anti-Federalist opposition to Constitutional ratification. Initially, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by theCongress, and many of its provisions were interpreted more narrowly than they are today. Beginning with Gitlow v. New York (1925), the Supreme Court applied the First Amendment to states—a process known as incorporation—through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Sans amendment the constitution states clearly “We the people”… not government, company, etc. We the people are in charge not any less. Hence why We The People left our tyrants. If our government becomes tyrants, we the people are “still in charge”. Don’t fool yourself otherwise!

  • Thomas Thomas

    I love this news source, but just wanted to give a caveat to this particular story. I was curious when the SCOTUS case said “some elements” so I looked up the case–Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994). The parody test is not quite so cut and dry. The Court recognizes that parody *may* be a legitimate use but only if it appropriates “some” elements; it is not necessarily valid if it copies all elements (such as an entire logo). The Court says this, “The fact that parody can claim legitimacy for some appropriation does not, of course, tell either parodist or judge much about where to draw the line. Like a book review quoting the copyrighted material criticized, parody may or may not be fair use, and petitioners’ suggestion that any parodic use is presumptively fair has no more justification in law or fact than the equally hopeful claim that any use for news reporting should be presumed fair,.” Keep reporting. These are discussions that need to be had! :)

  • zenloki

    Zazzle needs to, pardon the vernacular, man up.

  • calebgrayson
  • Shawn

    Ben, normally I think you do a bang-up job on all your commentaries – but this one missed the biggest issue of all, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105: “Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.”

  • Paul Braxton Hicks

    The only shame is to have none.
    Blaise Pascal
    humility has never been a virtue of the government.

  • HP McLovincraft

    Hey Ben…where’d the Logo (you know, the one with the misspelling of ‘you’re’) go?

    Down the Memory Hole! How Orwellian of you.



    Besides trying to display the whistleblowers as criminals to the systems, I sense they will use other old tactics, which is to do an actual attack on Alternative News groups, by raiding their headquarters and burning them down, like the old Mafioso
    ways. So, everyone out there that is reporting the truth, Heads-Up on this as well. And of course, be ready for them to raid your homes as well, or get pulled over. The game has moved up a notch in the wrong direction. Heads-Up!

  • robert

    i’m buying a shirt

  • pff136

    But who funds the NSA?? The American tax payer.

  • CJH

    What material harm to the interests of the United States has been demonstrated by the NSA to have been done by these t-shirts?
    It seems to me that some common sense needs to be evidenced here.

  • gmo2ashes

    The US itself … is a parody.

  • Montgomery Scott

    WHERE can i get this shirt?

  • Tall Tom

    This is not the first instance of the happening. WilliamBanzai7 at Zerohedge also had merchandise using the NSA logo as Parody removed for Copyright Infringement.

    It takes money to fight these guys in court. They have an unlimited Bank as they can print money to fund their Legal Defense. Unfortunately the private citizen, if he were to attempt that, will be charged with Counterfeiting.

    You can fight but it will cost you everything that you have. So then what? They just violate the laws again as they care less about legal precedents and Supreme Court Rulings. Your freedom is a farce.

    What can you do? Opt out. Stop working and live off of any savings. Declare Bankruptcy. Get your money out of the large banks.

    What are you willing to sacrifice? It is up to you. I am opting out as much as I possibly can. Starve the Beast. Starve the Government of INCOME. Do not break the law. But if you have no income then you are legally not obligated to pay taxes. Financial support is support. Stop supporting the Government and Tyranny.

  • anarchobuddy

    Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it is the case that the federal government is legally prohibited from copyrighting anything domestically; everything published by the government that is not classified is in the public domain. Thus, it doesn’t even matter whether or not this shirt qualifies as a parody, since the NSA is illegally claiming a copyright.


    • Ike

      In general the works of the US Fed Gov are in the public domain. However the use of logos is probably restricted to prevent fraud. I don’t remember if this is copyright or a separate law.

      Really wish the report had covered this, without it the reporting seems superficial and poorly researched.

      Regardless the shirt is political speech and as such is protected even if a law explicitly forbids the use of a logo in whole or part.

      This also reminds me of the of the Stolen Valor Act and court case.

  • William Ted Brown

    Someones nose is going to be ten feet long with this tall tail. You are correct the federal Government cannot copyright anything nor can it patent an invention or retain intellectual property.rights.

    • Rick

      Except it does.

  • William Ted Brown

    This is the BIG LIE from the radical right.

  • James Dysart

    Great job as usual, Ben!

  • Tony

    Screw the rules of parody and free speech. There cannot be any copyright infringement of the NSA because they are an organization funded (with forcibly extracted tax-money) by the PUBLIC. Therefor the public is the rightful owner of everything the NSA produces. Without taxes extracted (whether the public likes it or not) from the public, the NSA would not be able to do or make anything. They have no ownership of anything because they have not engaged in any voluntary free market exchange where their customers have voluntarily agreed with any conditions on that exchange. It is basically the same as when a thief robs you, then claims to have copyrights to whatever it has bought or created with the loot, and then proceeds to file suit against the original owner of the money that was stolen, for copyright infringement.

    • OnyxFox

      Agreed. Tell that to the citizens being kept out of our publicly owned national parks. There’s quite a lot of public property being declared government property these days. Just because it’s ours doesn’t keep them from taking it.

  • Brian Braun

    I thought that parody was legal under copyright law

  • poof

    I’ll bet this makes Saturday Night Live writers cringe! (not)

  • zonkedout1

    I heard that the NSA stole that image from someone and reversed it to begin with. If nothing else, I think Roger Water may have a claim against them. Traditionally, satire has been allowed a lot of leeway, though.

  • Randy Wingate

    Thanks again for covering this Ben.

  • Beverly Buckman

    You must stop this at the first sign….or they get their foot in the door…good luck pushing them out.

  • Rob Weitt

    Does the Obama administration intend to use the National Guard to close the 495 beltway around Washington DC to prevent the truckers, bikers and veterans from exercising their rights as citizens to protest this weekend Oct 11-13?

  • denise0513

    Whether the image falls under copywrite or not, We the People own NSA, hence we own the copywrite.

    • J to the K

      “We the People” is nothing but an elaborate illusion. Carry on, peon.

      • denise0513

        I believe it is safe to say you don’t truly care about the United States and the basis on which it was founded. Your statement tells me you have given up on it! I refuse to give up!

        • J to the K

          You’d be wrong 😉

          • denise0513

            Then don’t allow “We the People” be an elaborate illusion! Stand up and fight for it!

  • lastresort09

    Sec. 15. (a) 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.

    • OnyxFox

      If it is a parody, a satire, something mocking the NSA, wouldn’t it be questionable that the words and logo were authorized, endorsed, or approved by the agency, making this particular clause not a reason to suppress sale of the shirt? Any attorneys out there, help me with this. Does the language of this clause leave room for the Zazzle shirts, and is this clause even constitutionally valid?

    • Justin Hilbert

      That is a regulation to dissuade impersonation of federal agents/officers. NOT Comedy T-shirts.

    • Brian Bradford

      “to convey the impression that such use is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the National Security Agency”

      I’m pretty sure this parody was obviously in no way endorsed or approved by the NSA therefore this law doesn’t apply to this circumstance. It generally helps if you finish reading the way the law is written instead of stopping halfway.

  • Ashley Meyer

    Zazzle doesn’t give a crap about fair use. They took down my NSA parody too. Did McCall ever take Zazzle to court?

  • john

    wouldnt that be considered parody?