There is a lot of work today for me, plus it is election day and there are some constitutional amendments I need to weigh in on, but I am never too busy to complain about the continuing erosion of personal liberty.

It has come to my attention this morning a small business operator named Dan McCall has been ordered to stop selling a parody t-shirt because it offends the NSA–the National Security Administration–you know, the ones who are keeping tabs on all your metadata?  Yeah, them.

This is the t-shirt in question:

pic from
pic from

In case you can’t read it–it has the NSA logo with the fake motto, “Peeping while your sleeping” and then below that it has a cute little satire that says, “The NSA–The only part of government that actually listens.”

He was selling this t-shirt all over the place, including Zazzle.  Zazzle is one of the online retailers I know about because I bought a coffee cup with a cockroach picture on it for a loved one last year from Zazzle.  But I digress.

The rationale behind their scary Orwellian “Cease and Desist” order is that it is copyright infringement.  Really?  The NSA is copyrighted?  Does the NSA seek to make money off it’s logo?  Besides, this is a parody.  Go to any shopping mall and you will find parody t-shirts in half the shops.  Go to any church youth group and you will see religiously parodied t-shirts that take a secular logo and put a spiritual or biblical twist to it.

It happens everyday and most of us chuckle and move on.  But not the NSA.  Not our government.

I am not saying it is good taste to print that t-shirt and I’m not saying I would buy one.  However, this is an epic government overreach.  What is next, will the NSA go after The Onion.  Actually, that would be a great Onion story about how the NSA is trying to shut them down.  In fact when I first saw this I thought it was a rogue Onion story some took for being real, but then I checked it with real news sources like NBC.  I wish it were satire, but this is Jon Stewart.  This is our government.

For what it is worth, I am sure my tax bill will go up now after they read this blog.  If there are no further postings found, or my blog suddenly goes dark, you will understand what happened.







11 responses to “FREE SPEECH IS SHIRTLESS”

  1. This is especially interesting to me because of the law involved. Mind you, I haven’t read any of the news stories about this case, but I did remember, and just looked it up, that there is a law specific to the NSA that may be at issue here. It is clearly not a violation of copyright for a few reasons, not the least of which is satire: if that claim had any teeth, “Weird” Al wouldn’t have a career.

    No, it seems NSA’s claim is that the shirt violates a Statute that forbids use of its name, initials, and seal without the agency’s express permission. The problem is that that law, 50 U.S.C. § 3613, says that those things may not be used “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.” If, however, the logo or name are used in a manner that is not calculated to convey such an impression, then it is perfectly legal, at least as far as that statute is concerned.

    I seriously doubt that anyone thinks that t-shirt is endorsed by the NSA. If the Agency is pressuring retailers to pull the shirt, then it is little better than an extra-legal strong-arm tactic, and that’s more than a little bit outrageous.

    • virgil, you are such a law stud! great info there on the reply. it is completely ridiculous and, honestly, i just can’t believe that something like this would even pop up on the NSA’s radar. they must be really thin skinned over there.
      thanks for reading.

  2. Thin skinned, or unusually sensitive due to repeated recent bruises. As the great Ozzie once said (or was it Kurt?), “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you.” I wonder how “A city set on a hill cannot be hid” applies to the NSA etc.?

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