McCall v. National Security Agency

Topic(s): 
First Amendment
Case Description: 

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security sent cease and desist letters to Zazzle, a company through which members of the public can have their designs imprinted on Tshirts and other merchandise, threatening litigation and even criminal prosecution unless certain parody designs be taken off the virtual storefront of an activist-entrepreneur who used versions of the official agency seals to make fun of the two agencies. Both agencies have special statutes protecting their official seals from misuse, but Public Citizen argues that neither statute can properly be applied to forbid parodies, and that, if the statutes do so apply, they violate the First Amendment.

Both defendants agreed to send letters to Zazzle that the statutes they had cited do not prevent the use of agency seals to identify the subjects of commentary, such as parody, and that they were wrong to demand that McCall's designs be taken off the market. In return, plaintiff agreed to dismiss his lawsuit with prejudice.