A few months ago I created a parody Twitter account affectionately poking fun at a beloved US government institution. At first glance, the account is designed to look like one of the institution's own Twitter accounts, but it is very clearly labelled as a parody and to the best of my knowledge no one has ever mistaken it for the genuine article. As the account has grown in popularity, it has inevitably come to the attention of the institution itself.
Earlier today, I was contacted by an individual on behalf of the institution who explained to me that the institution has an issue with the account - not with the account itself or its content but with the misappropriation of its logo as the account's profile photo. The message I received was very cordial, not at all litigious (yet) and the impression I received was that they'd be happy as long as the logo was removed. I checked on their website, which has the following to say:
The ------------- symbol is the official insignia and registered mark of the ---------------. As such, it is protected by trademark laws and by 18 U.S.C. § 701, which provides for criminal penalties against non-governmental use of Government marks and other insignia. The -------------- symbol may not be used without prior written permission from the Director of the ------------------.
This seems pretty cut and dry to me. I'm not married to the logo and it can be easily replaced with something else, so I will probably replace it just to keep the peace. I was wondering though, whether the fact that the account is a parody and is clearly labeled as such has any bearing here. It's a slightly different situation from say a rival hotel chain adopting a lookalike Best Western logo to dupe unsuspecting guests. I'm not profiting from the account in any way. Also worth mentioning is that the centrepiece of the logo has been completely changed to something pretty ridiculous to make confusion even less likely.
Thanks in advance for any advice. Apologies for the cryptic nature of my post, but if I named the institution in question, it would give away the name of the account and I don't want this to be misconstrued as spam.