Subway maps and IP

October 2, 2005, [MD]

One of the reasons the iPod family has been so successful, apart from their sleek design and shrewd marketing, has to the whole ecosystem of services and gear that has grown up around the players. You can buy bags, belts, microphones, radio transmitters - you can put linux on them, use the notes function to read online novels and more. One of the things I briefly noticed a few months ago, before I had my own, was that several cities’ subway maps had been broken up into appropriate sized pictures and made available for download. That way, you’d always have them available in your pocket. Just one other smart little idea.

Apparently it was too good to last, because they just received cease-and-desist letters from both the New York City and the San Francisco (liberal anyone?) subway systems, saying that they had to immediately remove the maps, since this was copyrighted material. Although they might technically be right, this is about the most short-sighted thing I’ve ever seen. Surely as a subway, and a city, you would appreciate more people riding your subway! And any way of making this information more accessible should be a positive thing! Luckily Boston has written to them and told them to freely use their map, and they are now contacting other cities about this. Toronto is also on the list - I really hope they let them use it freely.

This also impacts me, because I was loosely toying with the idea of making Toronto transit information more easily accessible. However, that should still be fine, since the pure information cannot be copyrighted, but the map design can. (So one option would be to make new maps based on the existing information - which would of course only serve to confuse users).

I haven’t been very active lately, since getting back into school - it’s been a weird period of trying to map out how the next four months are going to be. We’ll see how it proceeds.


Stian Håklev October 2, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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