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FBI lets public use anti-piracy warning seal

Worried about the kid next door stealing your child's scribble patterns? Just slap an FBI anti-piracy warning onto the artwork, and you'll be safe from infringement. Sort of.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is expanding its anti-piracy seal program beyond the five software and entertainment industries - the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Software & Information Industry Association, the Business Software Alliance, and the Entertainment Software Association - tapped in 2003 for its pilot program. The move will allow the general public to access the image, based on particular rules set by the FBI.

The seal is available for use on copyrighted works only, as opposed to other types of intellectual property, the Bureau stated in the Federal Register. The seal is intended to be used on works protected under federal criminal statutes prohibiting piracy of copyrighted material.

"It serves as a vivid and widely recognizable reminder of the FBI's authority and mission with respect to the protection of intellectual property rights," according to the Federal Register.

The seal can be downloaded for free via the FBI's website, a far cry from the previous restrictions that required users to enter into a written agreement governing its use.

Based on a number of public comments regarding the possible expansion program, people favoured eliminating the FBI's financial and administrative obstacles, while a few focused on the benefits of speed and ease of access with the online edition of the seal.

Self-identified copyright holders especially supported the proposed rule, according to the FBI, nothing that live sporting events and independent films are among the content most vulnerable to piracy.

Meanwhile, some opponents of the rule argued that the anti-piracy warning seal could lose its already minimal effect if the FBI begins handing it out willy-nilly.

The Bureau held firm, though, and said the seal and its accompanying warnings convey important messages that can be more widely distributed to the public through this new program.

"It was the volume of requests to use the APW Seal from outside the entertainment industry associations participating in the pilot program, and the costs of negotiating agreements with individual copyright holders, that in large part spurred the revisions to the program reflected by this regulation," the FBI said.

The rule will go into effect in mid-August.