For example, let's say I wanted to create a character for a YouTube comedy/skit channel and have them be an FBI or CIA agent. Even if the character is playing this association straight, it would be extremely obvious to the audience that I'm not an actual agent. The character might not even be a real human, it might be an animated avatar or something similar.

Under these circumstances, what exactly could I get away with? Can I claim to be an agent and talk about obviously fake "classified information" I made up myself? (think UFOs, Elvis is actually alive, Ronald McDonald is a clone of JFK - whatever).

What if I wanted to use a logo or a flag in a video? Or have a huge FBI flag sitting behind me while I filmed, wearing a hat with a symbol, or something comparable? That's the part I'm mostly concerned about, is using symbols in created content.

I've found a few similar questions on this site but none that quite had the same context as what I'm talking about.

1 Answer 1


18 USC 713 is an example of a law limiting use of such symbols. It imposes a fine if one

knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or of the seals of the President or the Vice President of the United States [etc]

but furthermore imposes that limit only when

for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States...

That purpose is lacking in a comedy sketch, therefore there is no law against it. The various laws against displaying emblems etc. are directed against conveying some false impression. We assume that your comedy would be successful in making it clear that this is not to me taken seriously.

  • The performance doesn’t have to be comedic - a clearly dramatic performance is also ok.
    – Dale M
    Jan 29, 2022 at 21:59

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