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Media (Apple) Media Patents

NYC & SF iPod Subway Map Controversy 361

Posted by Zonk
from the free-as-in-beer dept.
scruffy323 writes "NYC and San Francisco are claiming copyright violations for freely distributed subway maps." From the Wired piece: "More than 9,000 people downloaded the map, which was viewable on either an iPod or an iPod nano, before Bright received a Sept. 14 letter from Lester Freundlich, a senior associate counsel at New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, saying that Bright had infringed the MTA's copyright and that he needed a license to post the map and to authorize others to download it."
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NYC & SF iPod Subway Map Controversy

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  • Feh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:29AM (#13692424)
    Man redistributes copyright material without permission.
    That's not actually a controversy.
  • by mrjb (547783) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:30AM (#13692428)
    Technically the subway co. of NY city are right. It *is* copyright infringement and the map *was* distributed without their permission.

    That said, in practice the NYC subway co. already made the map available to the general public, so it's not like there are any losses or damages as a result of this. In fact making the map available on IPod might actually increase the number of subway users. This rises the question, "what's the problem?" Conclusion: NYC subway co., get a life.
  • by ralinx (305484) <ralinx@gmail.com> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:31AM (#13692432)
    ok... some guy provides copyrighted material so it can be used with iPods... in what way is this an apple story? Should a story be posted everytime someone releases an mp3 of a copyrighted song because it can be used on an iPod?
  • by daern (526012) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:32AM (#13692433)
    Funnily enough, the people who own the rights to the London Underground map, which is arguably one of the world's best recognised maps, also protect it fiercely, so I'd be surprised if another cease and desist letter wasn't in the post as we speak...
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:32AM (#13692435)
    I guess the city makes an ass load of money off those maps? :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:34AM (#13692444)
    Once upon a time it was easy to fool oneself that the US was a Free Country. It just happens to get harder & harder to keep up that illusion as more information is dissemminated.

    I've visited the US more than a dozen times in the last 30 years. The idea that it's just an illusion of freedom came to me in the late 1970s and has become more & more obvious as time goes by. What saddens me is few living there see it too.
  • I grew up in NYC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vengeance (46019) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:41AM (#13692461)
    Subway maps were very difficult to get. Technically they were free and available, but you had to be damned lucky to find a token booth clerk who actually had any in the booth.

    A downloadable map makes a world of sense, and frankly I cannot understand just WHAT about a subway system map needs copyright protection? Is there some subway map counterfeiting operation out there? Does the system stand to lose ridership and money as a consequence of people being able to find their way around?

    In summary, I consider this lawsuit to be insane and unnecessary. Noone but the lawyers will benefi.. Oh, yes, that's right.
  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:43AM (#13692465) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, how dare they impinge our freedom to take the fruits of other people's labours and treat them as our own... It's interesting that if the map had been GPL'd, and the redistributor was infringing that licence -- rather than a more standard copyright -- most of the people here would be taking exactly the opposite viewpoint on this infringement.
  • by oncehour (744756) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:49AM (#13692479)
    Once again, it's a case of corporations trying to protect the status quo, more than it is of an actual individual problem occuring with this instance. To not kneejerk at this instance would be to have it thrown into their face if someone else stole their intellectual property. Additionally, if the maps were released to a widespread audience freely for a significant amount of time, any hope at commercial opportunities for using the map would have pretty well been destroyed. It may not be a likely scenario, but an example of the logic that could have lead to this.

    Personally, I believe maps should have their own subsection within Intellectual Property laws. People do need an incentive to make them generally, but with aerial photographs, this is getting easier and easier as time goes on. Blueprinted building and track ways makes this even more trivial, and once you get down to it, a map is just a graphical representation of the factual geography of a location. I believe the subway company could do better to just pick up a few advertising contracts, brand the maps with advertising, and release under the Creative Commons.

    However, based on the current corporate mindset around adapting to technology and kneejerk reactions to the words "file-sharing" this sort of idea is probably long off.
  • by thinkzinc (668822) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:58AM (#13692491)
    Maybe this is more of an issue to the company that has a contract to print the maps? Less maps needed, fewer maps to print...
  • by layer3switch (783864) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @05:59AM (#13692498)
    I live in NYC and do not like MTA at all. However I have to agree with MTA here.
    (hint* pay extra attention to the last part.)

    from http://www.mta.info/sitehtml/mtacopy.htm [mta.info]

    No part of this program, product, software, or item, including the look or feel of the program, product, software, or item may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including the use of information storage and retrieval systems, without the express written permission of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (or other appropriate corporate entity). This prohibition against unlawful or unauthorized reproduction is intended to include all U.S. domestic use as well as protections afforded under any international forum or law, including, but not limited to G.A.T.T.

    Each individual document published by MTA on the World Wide Web may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that individual document.

    Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel or otherwise any license or right under any patent or trademark of MTA or any third party. Except as expressly provided above nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any MTA copyright.

    Note that any product, process, or technology in this document may be the subject of other intellectual property rights reserved by MTA, and may not be licensed hereunder.

    This publication is provided "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OR NON-INFRINGEMENT.

    Some jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion of implied warranties, so the above exclusion may not apply to you.

    Any MTA publication may include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes may be periodically made to these publications; these changes will be incorporated in new editions of these publications. The MTA may make improvements and/or changes in the products and/or the programs described in these publications at any time without notice.

    Should any viewer of an MTA published document respond with information including feedback data, such as questions, comments, suggestions, or the like regarding the content of any such MTA document, such information shall be deemed to be non-confidential and MTA shall have no obligation of any kind with respect to such information and shall be free to reproduce, use, disclose and distribute the information to others without limitation. Further, The MTA shall free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques contained in such information for any purpose whatsoever including but not limited to developing, manufacturing and marketing products incorporating such information.
    --------

    In short, I think, all he had to do was just post his subway map as his suggestion and it could have easily bypassed this whole mess.

    Since he seems to placed himself as sole publisher of this "unique" map as in claiming the map as "his own", he just opened himself with can of worm. Follow this;

    from http://www.ipodsubwaymaps.com/about.php [ipodsubwaymaps.com]

    So what's this all about?

    Simply put, I decided that it'd be pretty cool to build this website so you can put subway maps onto your iPod Photo. As I write this, I've only got one city up so far -- well, almost. I skipped Staten Island. Do people actually ride that subway?

    Eventually I'd like to open the site up to allow other visitors to submit their own maps. One step at a time, though. ...

    Is this all just some blatant self-promotion?

    Is all of it? Of course not. Is some of it? Sure! I really thought the idea of putting my subway map onto my iPod was cool. Why should I keep it all to myself? If it's helpful to me, then why not to the rest of you?
    ------

    All he had to do
  • by Pecisk (688001) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:02AM (#13692506)
    Problem I guess there is that subway co. should protect this info that way that they allow to distribute it - BUT it comes exactly from them, so there is correct information all over the place. Sometimes copyright protection is used for such simply reasons - not for money.
  • Re:Sue away! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:02AM (#13692507) Journal
    There are reasons to protect with copyright other than preserving profit.

    Perhaps the transit authority wants to make sure that all sources of the information are kept up to date. If they let anyone distribute it they can't be sure people will have an up to date map. If they insist people licence it then at least they can control this.

    There are other potential problems as well. They simply avoid any issues by clamping down on all copying with no exceptions.
  • by OldeClegg (32696) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:11AM (#13692523)
    "a quasi-public agency"

    Bingo. When public ifrastructure services are relegated to market driven private interests, some degree of public ownership rights must be maintained. If the subway owners want to sell private property, they should do so in the private domain, on their own and without tax funded investment.

  • Re:Feh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:48AM (#13692590)
    Maybe he should just draw his own.
    That's exactly what he should do.
  • by plnrtrvlr (557800) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:51AM (#13692594)
    Here's where I wish I had mod points... always seem to have them when I can't find anything to mod, never when I want to. You're probably closer to the truth than you know on this. It would seem that the cities in question would applaud something like this: someone else helping them to distribute a map that normally costs them money to distibute themselves. Hoever, if you "follow the money" it's probably the printer/publisher of the subway maps that is behind the complaint. Those people aren't in the least bit interested in providing a service to the people who use the subway, they just wnt to charge the city as much money as they can. A few phone calls to the right people and next thing you know we have another stupid copyright infringement issue. This isn't so much an issue with copyright law as it is an issue to take up with the city council: they need to be pressured to make this into a freely distributable service since the taxpayers ultimately pay for it anyways.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:03AM (#13692620)
    Once upon a time US was a FREE country

    Unless you were not a white male.
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:04AM (#13692624) Journal
    Once upon a time US was a FREE country

    What the fuck are you talking about? Or are you just babbling the slashdot group think to get your ass modded up? (+1 Insightful as of posting this, so he aint being very successful).

    America had the ability for Congress to enact copyright law in it's Constitution. You know, the piece of paper that says what America can and can't do. It was completed in 1787, 11 years after the United States of America was first formed (sorta. See here for more details.) It took effect two years later. This power was first exercised in 1790, only 1 year after the Constitution was placed into effect. Here's a small quote from [wikipedia.org]this article [wikipedia.org] which you might find enlightening. Emphasis mine:
    The Act secured an author the exclusive right to publish and vend "maps, charts and books"
    Now while the term limit has been increased dramatically, that isn't the issue here (we're not talking about maps that are over 14 years old are we?). So don't give me that bullshit about this being another example of copyright "thing" getting worse and worse. Unless you were talking about the US being a free country before 1790 of course.
  • Re:Feh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:08AM (#13692636)
    > Man redistributes copyright material without permission.
    > That's not actually a controversy.

    Yes, good point. Though I'm not certain I agree with _why_ this is not a controversial issue. Not that I'm being clear in my reply, either... ;-)

    Now, for what really matters: I don't know American law (I mean, US law, since America is a continent and no country should take hold of this name), but in my country a public place is, well, public, and everyone is entitled to make photos or drawings or maps or sketches etc.

    Maybe it's not a public place after all?
  • For the love of... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dreamland (212064) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:21AM (#13692654)
    So this guy creates a web site, and puts copyrighted images on it. For good measure he then plasters the site with Google ads to make money off it. (Or maybe that was his intention from the get-go?) Then he complains when the copyright holder wants him to remove the copyrighted images for which he has no license from his ad-driven web site? Right...
  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:25AM (#13692663) Journal
    It's true. Only white males were allowed to be free. Women were not given equal rights, and blacks, well, there had to be a whole war just to free those. And even then they weren't given equal rights until the 20th century. Modding people who state this Flamebait will not change the past, it will only encourage ignorance so our forefather's mistakes can be repeated by our descendants.
  • by samuel4242 (630369) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:30AM (#13692672)
    Any work produced by the US Government can't be copyrighted:
    http://www.cendi.gov/publications/04-8copyright.ht ml#toc30 [cendi.gov]

    I don't know about state or local agencies like the transit authorities, but it would seem to make sense that they shouldn't be allowed to copyright their materials either. The same principle is at stake. The taxpayers pay for the creation of the work so the taxpayers should share ownership.
  • by BeerCat (685972) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:59AM (#13692742) Homepage
    You can buy everything from t-shirts to tea-towels with the London underground map embossed, and many tourists do, so I guess it's a bit of a cash cow.

    As far as I know, all the Underground related items are licenced by LT, so they probably enforce copyright issues.

    However, since they also licence the use of the map in diaries and such, then the cost of a licence is probably not too high.

    The Ordnance Survey in the UK has a full page devoted to copyright issues [ordnancesurvey.co.uk], which indicates that, for some uses, the cost for reproduction may simply be an acknowledgement of the original copyright owner.
  • by black mariah (654971) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @08:34AM (#13692871)
    So I'm wondering just what in this image is subject to copyright.
    The artwork, dumbass. Just place names and streets are facts doesn't mean that a drawing of those things are facts as well.

    This is the same as a company printing a book that's in the public domain, yet still retaining copyright. For THAT PARTICULAR EDITION they hold the copyright. You can create your own, but you can't copy theirs.
  • Re:Feh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @08:43AM (#13692909) Journal
    The problem is that the material is copyrighted at all. The map is public information created by a public agency for public dissemination. This case is an example of public agencies wasting public resources.

    The only beneficiary of copyright in this instance is some petty bureaucrat who can claim his/her job is important to the public weal. The public "servant's" next step will be to ask for an increase in funding so he can hire his/her wife/husband/son/daughter/nephew/... to reformat the maps to meet this new "public demand" for public information.

    I feh on your feh and whomever ordered the cease and desist to be written in the first place.
  • RTFA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotFunny (775189) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @08:51AM (#13692942)
    He formatted the maps to be read on an iPod.
    The maps are not formatted for any other mp3 player.
    Apple makes the iPod.
    Therefore, this is an Apple story.
  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:38AM (#13693129)
    While this is all nice, the MTA isn't a corporation in the usual sense at all. It is a city government agency, subsidized and funded by the city of New York. This map was already created with taxpayer dollars. City agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of their city, not to shareholders, and aim to make profits only to the extent that they should avoid inflicting unnecessary taxes on their citizens through waste or inefficiency.

    This doesn't make any sense because making the map available to people in another format is a public good being performed by a private citizen. The MTA is actually hurting citizens of New York by imposing this undue burden on this fellow. There is really no defense for such behavior.
  • Re:Feh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:38AM (#13693130)
    As a New York state (but not NYC) resident, a shit load of both my state and a small chunk of federal taxes go to pay for the NY subway. The maps of the subway system belong to me and the other people of this state. Unless they have a damn compelling reason otherwise, I expect these maps to be public domain.
  • Re:Feh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mypalmike (454265) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:43AM (#13693430) Homepage
    I can only assume the reason they care is that they get income from licencing fees for publication in the private sector. Like, when Frommers publishes "Ney York City on just $500 a day", it will contain licensed copies of subway maps, etc. So, when this stuff is published without license, there is a potential loss of income as demand for licensed product declines. These licensing fees actually decrease the tax burden on you.
  • Re:Feh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @12:35PM (#13693891)
    No, they merely shift the tax burden from one place to another. Artificially locking public information up so that it can be resold by a private entity is just wrong. It's like when governments spend huge amounts of money to make GIS maps and then only provide them under expensive licenses, you've already paid to have the data collected and consolidated, why should you be double taxed if you actually want to access the information? Just because there are people with the means to buy the information under expensive licenses does not mean that the government should make it standard practice to double tax anyone who wants to actually use the output of the information retrieval and consolidation process that they have already paid for. Down that path lies much less transparant government, which is never a good thing.
  • Re:Feh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poopdeville (841677) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @12:46PM (#13693958)
    First, you as an accomplished artist, draw, paint or otherwise render in a physical medium an illustration of a public square. Since it is a public place, you have no rights to your work? That would disappoint quite a lot of people.

    You're an illiterate. His argument is that the maps were commissioned by a public agency, using the people's funds , likely as a work-for-hire , and should therefore be released to the public domain.

  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @01:23PM (#13694123)
    There are no alternatives. Everywhere you go, you'll get more or less the same. The difference is the degree to which the illusion is maintained.

    In some places, the "ones in power" will openly tell you that you better comply with their policies or you'll get your arse handed to yourself. In other places, nobody says anything, and should you fail to comply, you'll get whisked away in the night never to be seen again. And in other places, everybody tells you that you are free to do as you please and dissent however you please. Should you do so, however, you'll get slapped down with whatever is necessary to keep you quiet.

    There is no freedom, there is only tolerance. And even that runs out. This can be a byproduct of living in a crowded society (I'm no anthropologist, mind you) so it might be unavoidable.

    Where is the better place to live? That depends on your personal preferences. If you chose to emigrate from your country, do it because of work oportunities ot better living conditions or because you like the weather better or you find the language sexy... But don't fool yourself thinking you are going to find "freedom".

The idle man does not know what it is to enjoy rest.

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