FBI Expands Right to Use Anti-Piracy Warning Seal

August 13, 2012

New rule allows seal to be used on copyrighted works of all types.

Effective, August 13, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has announced that any copyright owner may download and use the FBI anti-piracy warning seal.


In 2003, the FBI created its Anti-Piracy Warning Seal Program to assist in deterring illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted works and to increase public awareness of the penalties associated with piracy. Previously, the use of the seal was limited to members of the five entertainment and software industry associations that had entered into formal agreements with the FBI. The associations were responsible for administering their members' use of the seal and for recordkeeping. The FBI, however, routinely received additional requests for use from copyright holders who were not members of these five associations. To address what appeared to be a more widespread desire to use the seal, the FBI began rulemaking proceedings to facilitate an expansion of the program.

After public comments on the proposed rule permitting wider use by copyright holders of the seal, the FBI issued a final rule on July 13 allowing all copyright holders to use the seal. Authorization for Use of the FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal, 77 Fed. Reg. 41,316 (July 13, 2012) (to be codified at 41 C.F.R. pt. 128-1), available here.

Use of the Seal

The copyrighted work on which the seal appears does not have to be registered before the seal can be used. It can appear on, or in connection with, registered and unregistered works. The seal, however, can only be used immediately adjacent to the following authorized warning language:

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment.

On and after August 13, 2012, the seal image can be downloaded from the FBI's public website at However, it cannot be animated or altered except that it may be used in outline, black and white, or grayscale. The FBI encourages users of its seal to employ copyright anti-circumvention or copy-protection techniques to discourage unauthorized copying of the seal to the same extent that the copyrighted content on which the seal appears is protected by these techniques.

As the seal is protected by federal law, care needs to be taken when using it. Misuse is punishable under Sections 701 and 709 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. The seal should not be used in a manner indicating FBI approval, authorization, or endorsement of any communication or with any language other than the authorized warning language. No other content that appears on the same page, screen, or packaging where the seal is displayed should reference, contradict, or convey an association with the seal or the FBI. The seal also may not be used on any work that violates the laws of the United States, including laws protecting intellectual property and laws prohibiting child pornography and obscenity.

While use of the seal on all copyrighted works may not be prudent or economically feasible and may not improve customer relations, selective use of the seal on works that are the most vulnerable to piracy—proprietary software code, video games, videos, images, and testing materials, by way of example—may enhance enforcement of particularly valuable copyrighted works.