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Donna Wentworth
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Ernest Miller
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Elizabeth Rader
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Wendy Seltzer
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Alan Wexelblat
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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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September 26, 2005

The new threat: Subway map sharing?

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Posted by Wendy Seltzer

Wired News reports on cease-and-desist letters two transit agencies have sent to iPodSubwayMaps.com, each complaining infringement of intellectual property rights. A student had alerted me to the site a bit earlier, so we have the letters up on Chilling Effects too.

What's up here? The letter from New York's MTA is light on the detail, not much more than "if right, then infringement." It's not clear how helping people find their way through the labyrinthine NY subway system hurts the transit authority, but that didn't seem to enter the equation. As a copyright matter, this transformative posting (re-sized and formatted for mobile devices) has a good claim to fair use.

The letter from San Francisco's BART spells things out further, invoking both copyright and trademark. BART doesn't want people to think out-of-date maps reflect the current subway system -- a valid concern of the sort that trademark law is well-suited to address. Of course they can address this concern short of prohibiting distribution of any maps, by asking the site to indicate clearly the date of its information and its independence from BART, or even by helping to keep it up-to-date.

As reported, the maps' poster has been working to create his own maps to replace the earlier images. Since copyright protects only "original expression," not facts or ideas, it offers thin protection to maps. The transit agencies can't copyright the locations of stations, their names, or the colors and symbols by which the public identifies them. A new map may look very much like the old ones without copying any copyrightable expression. So long as it's clear these are unofficial maps, the trademark "confusion" dissipates as well. I'll look forward to seeing the new maps posted soon -- and then porting them to the Treo!

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


COMMENTS

1. hugh on September 26, 2005 2:27 PM writes...

aren't all published government docs in the US considered public domain. i know this is true of feds, but what about state & city?

Permalink to Comment

2. Wendy on September 26, 2005 2:48 PM writes...

The blanket exclusion from copyright protection applies only to works of the U.S. federal governement. The Copyright Act prohibits the Government from claiming copyright in works of U.S. Government authorship (but not from accepting transfers of copyright from non-government parties). For state and local governments, there are other, more specific limits against claiming copyright in judicial decisions and statutes, based on the law's "functionality" and the public's right to know the law (See SBCCI v. Veeck) but those wouldn't apply here.

Permalink to Comment

3. Kenley Neufeld on September 26, 2005 5:57 PM writes...

It now appears that http://www.iPodSubwayMaps.com has had their web account "suspended."

Too much traffic???

Kenley

Permalink to Comment

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[url=http://www.freead2u.com/index.php?id=2]CQOUT[/url]- Simply put this is Ebay only worldwide competitior, they do charge a $1 signup fee to prove your identity. However all listings are totaly free upto $200 and multimillion views daily from all over the world. This I found is especially good for the US market.

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