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Angkor
06-20-2011, 11:45 PM
My book cover artist cannot find the CIA logo for purchase off the usual stock photo sites. A little research reveals that it is actually against the law (CIA Act of 1949) to use their logo for commercial reasons. Yet, a quick perusal of Amazon turns up lots of thrillers as well as nonfiction books with the CIA logo on their covers.

I'd be curious to know from any cover artists or others what might be going on here. I assume that those publishing the books are simply unware of the law, or don't care; and that the CIA doesn't care enough to seek to enforce this odd piece of law.

Also, if an artist cannot find a particular logo for purchase, would s/he feel free to re-create it, or not?

GameMasterNick
06-24-2011, 02:50 AM
I'd love to hear an expert opinion on this. Constitutional copyright law directly forbids limitations of use on government symbols, and I (not a lawyer) would think that law itself unconstitutional.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/105.html

CaoPaux
06-24-2011, 04:32 AM
CIA Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. section 403m):
“ No person may, except with the written permission of the Director, knowingly use the words “Central Intelligence Agency”, the initials “CIA”, the seal of the Central Intelligence 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 Central Intelligence Agency. ”

IOW, you may use it with permission. And I expect it's a trademark issue, not copyright.

jimbro
06-24-2011, 05:52 PM
CIA Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. section 403m):
“ No person may, except with the written permission of the Director, knowingly use the words “Central Intelligence Agency”, the initials “CIA”, the seal of the Central Intelligence 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 Central Intelligence Agency. ”

IANAL, but I don't think any honest or reasonable judge would hold that use in a novel as part of a cover illustration qualifies as suggesting an endorsement by the CIA.

ResearchGuy
06-24-2011, 11:05 PM
IANAL, but I don't think any honest or reasonable judge would hold that use in a novel as part of a cover illustration qualifies as suggesting an endorsement by the CIA.
Still cannot hurt to ask for permission. Even if they cannot ultimately win the case, the CIA has access to serious lawyers, deep pockets, and black ops.

--Ken

ironmikezero
06-25-2011, 03:08 AM
Still cannot hurt to ask for permission. Even if they cannot ultimately win the case, the CIA has access to serious lawyers, deep pockets, and black ops.

--Ken

Good advice... and if permission is not granted - leave it alone.

I retired from another agency that took its protected symbols very seriously. On more than one occasion we would physically seize the property in question as evidence and drag the perpetrator before the court. The agency always prevailed and the property was typically ordered destroyed by the court. Any proceeds derived from prior sale of said property and/or assets acquired therefrom were potentially subject to seizure and subsequent forfeiture. And that's aside from any punitive damage awards. Not even bankruptcy is sufficient protection.

You needn't take my word for it - consult with your attorney.

Trust me... This is one tar baby you'd want to pass up...

Angkor
06-25-2011, 07:25 PM
I queried several publishers whose authors' books carry the CIA logo regarding their policy on this matter. Only one deigned to answer. Following is his response:

Thanks for the thoughtful query regarding the use of the CIA logo. We’ve used the logo a few times and the Agency has never made an issue of it. There are, of course, other books (by well-known authors like Bob Woodward and Ron Kessler, for example) which have made use of the logo as well and my sense is that this has simply been a non-issue for the CIA, who as you might imagine have more important things to occupy their time. Beyond that, I would argue that publishing serious scholarship was never intended to be lumped with labels like “merchandise, impersonation, solicitation, or commercial activity” or that anything we’ve published has ever come close to conveying “the impression that such use is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the Central Intelligence Agency.”


For what it's worth, I emailed the appropriate CIA office asking for their position on this given that so many publishers use the CIA seal on their book covers. I'll post here their response, if I get one. This question potentially affects nonfiction and fiction writers alike.