"It's been kind of a strange, kind of scary at times, few months," he said. "I was having a lot of trouble figuring out what was going on. Everyone had their lips sealed."

Zazzle declined to comment.

Once McCall got lawyers involved, more details came out — not only what the NSA had told Zazzle, but that the letter was then two years old and that the Department of Homeland Security had made a similar demand.

"When you look at the images ... they're so obviously parodies," said Gollogly, of the Baltimore firm of Kramon & Graham.

"It's so clear by looking at them that they're making fun of the government and being critical that it's hard to imagine anyone would attack them under the statutes cited in the letters. My initial reaction was, 'Wow, I'm surprised this is happening, and I can't believe it's right.'"

McCall said the lawsuit prompted some interesting conversations with relatives, generally starting with: So ... you're suing the NSA? He said he's glad it's over and pleased that sites like Zazzle now have a better understanding of the latitude he and other designers have to poke fun.

These days, he's poking fun at the entire situation.

"Censored by the NSA," he declares on Zazzle competitor CafePress. "Available Here."

And under his "Homeland Stupidity" products: "Actually taken down in 2011 by a cease and desist order by the DHS. Talk about stupid!"

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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