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Using the FBI anti piracy warning (“APW”) to ward off copyright infringers!

Posted by Steve Vondran | Nov 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

Using the FBI Anti-Piracy Warning seal to protect your intellectual property?  How to do it and why you should consider doing it.  By Attorney Steve, software & copyright lawyer.


Is your company getting tired of copyright infringement of your photos, videos, music, audio, film files, software programs, website, or other corporate materials?  Perhaps you should consider putting up some copyright infringement warning signs so as to deter theft of your intellectual property.  This blog discusses the FBI anti-piracy seal and who can use it, and under what conditions. 

What does the law actually say? 

41 C.F.R. §128-1.5009 – Authorization for use of the Federal Bureau of Investigation anti-piracy warning seal.

(a) Purpose. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Anti-Piracy Warning Seal (“APW Seal”) is an official insignia of the FBI and the United States Department of Justice. The purpose of the APW Seal is to help detect and deter criminal violations of United States intellectual property laws by educating the public about the existence of these laws and the authority of the FBI to enforce them.

(b) The APW Seal is a modified image of the Official FBI Seal with the words “FBI ANTI-PIRACY WARNING” displayed horizontally across its center in an enclosed border, whether rendered in color, black and white, outline, or otherwise.

(c) The APW Seal has been approved by the Attorney General as an official insignia of the FBI within the meaning of Title 18, United States Code, Section 701, which provides criminal sanctions for unauthorized uses of such insignia.


(1) The regulations in this section authorize use of the APW Seal by copyright holders on copyrighted works including, but not limited to films, audio recordings, electronic media, software, books, photographs, etc., subject to the terms and conditions set forth in this section.

(2) Use of the APW Seal or of the authorized warning language in a manner not authorized under this section may be punishable under Title 18, United States Code, Sections 701, 709, or other applicable law.

(e)Conditions regarding use of the APW Seal.

(1) The APW Seal shall only be used on copyrighted works subject to protection under United States Criminal Code provisions such as those in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2319, 2319A, and 2319B.

(2) The APW Seal shall only be used immediately adjacent to the authorized warning language. “Authorized warning language” refers to the language set forth in paragraph (e)(2)(i) of this section, or alternative language specifically authorized in writing for this purpose by the Director of the FBI or his or her designee and posted on the FBI's official public Internet Web site ( Except as authorized pursuant to paragraph (f)(1), the APW Seal and authorized warning language shall be enclosed by a plain box border at all times that other text or images appear on the same screen or page.

(i) “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.”

(ii) [Reserved]

(3) The APW Seal image must be obtained from the FBI's official public Internet Web site ( The APW Seal image shall not be animated or altered except that it may be rendered in outline, black and white, or grayscale.

(4) In programming or reproducing the APW Seal in or on a work, users are encouraged to employ industry-recognized copyright anti-circumvention or copy protection techniques to discourage copying of the FBI APW Seal, except that such techniques need not be used if no other content or advertising programmed into the same work on the same media utilizes such copyright anti-circumvention or copy protection techniques.

Click here to go to the FBI anti piracy copyright page

(f) Prohibitions regarding use of the APW Seal.

(1) The APW Seal shall not be used in a manner indicating FBI approval, authorization, or endorsement of any communication other than the authorized warning language. No other text or image that appears on the same screen, page, package, etc., as the APW Seal or authorized warning language shall reference, contradict, or be displayed in a manner that appears to be associated with, the APW Seal or authorized warning language, except as authorized in writing by the Director of the FBI or his or her designee and posted on the FBI's official public Internet Web site (

(2) The APW Seal shall not be used on any work whose production, sale, public presentation, or distribution by mail or in or affecting interstate commerce would violate the laws of the United States including, but not limited to, those protecting intellectual property and those prohibiting child pornography and obscenity.

(3) The APW Seal shall not be forwarded or copied except as necessary to display it on an eligible work.

(4) The APW Seal shall not be used in any manner:

(i) Indicating that the FBI has approved, authorized, or endorsed any work, product, production, or private entity, including the work on which it appears;

(ii) Indicating that the FBI has determined that a particular work or portion thereof is entitled to protection of the law; or,

(iii) Indicating that any item or communication, except as provided herein, originated from, on behalf of, or in coordination with the FBI, whether for enforcement purposes, education, or otherwise

Previous companies that were authorized to use the FBI copyright seal

Previously, only a handful of select companies were allowed to try to deter privacy with this symbol.  These companies were large organizations in charge of copyright deterrence including:

  1. Business Software Alliance (“BSA”) which handles software license compliance for companies like Microsoft, Autodesk, CNC, and Adobe)
  2. Recording Industry Association of America (“RIIA”) helps enforce piracy in the music industry
  3. Entertainment Software Association (“ESA”)
  4. Software information Industry Association (“SIIA”) enforces copyrights for software companies and online digital publishers
  5. Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) deals with infringement of movies, films.

Now, your company is allowed to join in and spread the infringement message as to your copyrighted goods, but only if you closely follow the rules.

Key takeaways

  1. Put adjacent to copyrighted goods (does not need to be “registered”)
  2. Use the symbol they provide
  3. Put the language they provide adjacent to the symbol
  4. Do not make up your own wording or terminology
  5. Do not use the symbol or language in a way that suggests the FBI endorses or approves of your statement
  6. It is illegal to put symbol on goods that are illegal (ex. obscenity materials, or child porn for example)
  7. There are criminal sanctions for improper use
  8. Download the seal directly from the FBI website (click on the FBI photo on the middle of this page to be taken there)
  9. Do not alter the image provided (certain borders may be ok).  Check their rules.
  10. Do not use in conjunction with “fair use disclaimer” or notice implying that your use is a protected fair use.
  11. Companies and individuals are encouraged to use anti-circumvention technology on the seal to prevent easy copy and paste
  12. Use on software, books, music, audio, website, photographs, video, film, (basically any digital content protected by federal copyright laws)

Do your own due diligence, the rules may change from time to time so these are only general guidelines and we are not responsible if you fail to comply with the current rules. This is a very serious program, and if you need piracy counsel to assist you, it may be worth the money to be sure you are in compliance.  We offer low flat rate legal fees for most of the non-litigation cases we handle.

Contact a Federal Copyright Infringement Law Firm

We can help companies and individuals in a wide variety of infringement actions. From helping companies comply with the FBI anti-piracy seal program, to helping individuals respond to DMCA take down notices, to handling cases and transactional copyright issues.  We also handle audits and demand letters with The Software Alliance, Autodesk, and SIIA software infringement organizations.  Call us at (877) 276-5084. 

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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