New Zealand Agency Mocked by Social Media Users for Banning Use of Silver Fern Logo as Profile Pic

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A portrait of the Twitter logo in Ventura, California December 21, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
A portrait of the Twitter logo in Ventura, California December 21, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer A portrait of the Twitter logo

A government agency in New Zealand has gotten a backlash for banning a New Zealander from using the trademarked silver fern logo as a profile photo.

Facebook users are now turning their profiles into silver ferns as a sign of defiance. In the previous week, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has ordered an expat Kiwi to remove its silver fern logo from his Twitter profile and cited copyright infringement as the reason. A story that revealed the government agency's email to the Twitter user has caught the attention of social media users.

New Zealand Herald ran the story and one commenter encouraged everyone to use the trademarked silver fern and display it as their profile picture on social media.

Matt Williamson, who has already changed his Facebook profile pic to the NZTE silver fern logo, urged others to do the same. His comment earned almost a hundred "Likes." About 10 people proceeded to change their profile photos immediately.

A Facebook user also commented he saw at least 20 or so people on Twitter change their profiles and hundreds on Facebook. The user said he knows some people who have changed profile photos are concerned about intellectual property laws in general. Their "sense of nationhood" has been offended with the idea that any form of the silver fern logo can be claimed exclusively.

According to NZTE, the silver fern is a registered trademark and the agency feels it should be able to protect it. NZTE Marketing Director Nick Swallow said if the agency doesn't protect its intellectual property, it will weaken its rights and ability to enforce copyright infringement laws.

The Twitter user that originally used the silver fern logo removed it from his profile after NZTE's email. He said he was surprised a government agency had the time to target him. The Twitter user believes the silver fern logo is a symbol of who he is and he feels he should be able to use any version of the fern logo. 

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