As EFF friend Wendy Seltzer observes over @ Copyfight, the public transportation systems in New York and San Francisco have started an ugly trend: threatening people who make subway maps available online in a format easy for downloading to iPods. William Patry took note of the development, and he doesn't like what he sees:
This is very disturbing. Those agencies have much more pressing, public safety and service issues they should be worrying about than vigorously asserting copyright in subway maps. And if their concern is that the iPod maps were inaccurate, they should have offered to provide a free, up-to-date file. The only purpose for such maps in that format is to inform the public about which trains to take. Copyright is both unnecessary and inappropriate. The agencies' actions are shameful.
Shamefulness aside, do the agencies have any legal basis for sending cease-and-desist letters? Patry concludes that they may -- but that hardly means they should actually be using copyright claims to stop people from finding their way around. Writes Patry:
There is no statutory bar to protection for original subway maps, therefore. There should, though, be a common sense bar but that, like common decency, is apparently lacking.
Wired has additional coverage here.