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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Copyright > Notices > BART wants rapid takedown of iPod subway maps (NoticeID 2368, Printer-friendly version

BART wants rapid takedown of iPod subway maps

September 21, 2005


Sender Information:
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District
Sent by: [Private]
Oakland, CA, 94612-353, US

Recipient Information:
William Bright

Sent via: email and USPS
Re: Unauthorized reproduction of BART website content

Dear Mr. Bright:

I am the Website Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART). It has recently come to BART's attention that a website you operate at includes a copy of the BART System Map in various presentations.

There is a widespread belief that materials published by public agencies such as BART are in the public domain. This belief is incorrect. It is illegal to copy images from the BART website without permission. The BART website,, including the BART Logo, the BART System Map and other BART Intellectual Property is protected against unauthorized copying under federal copyright and trademark laws, 17 U.S.C. s 100 et seq. (copyright); and/or 15 U.S.C. s 1115 et seq. (trademark and unfair competition).

It is BART's policy not to allow the copying of BART content on third party websites. Please see our copyright policy at BART is concerned that the unauthorized copying of content from the BART website will mislead consumers by providing inaccurate information with the implication that it is official BART information. In fact, the BART System Map on your website is out of date.

In keeping with this policy, we demand that you remove any and all images containing the BART System Map, in whole or in part, from This includes images within, at at and any other BART website content that may appear on your site.

We understand that your misuse of BART's Intellectual Property may not have been intentional infringement. We trust that we can depend upon your good faith cooperation and prompt compliance with this request. Please contact me within the next two weeks to confirm that you have done so.

Thank you,
BART Website Manager

cc: BART Office of the General Counsel

FAQ: Questions and Answers

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Question: What rights are protected by copyright law?

Answer: The purpose of copyright law is to encourage creative work by granting a temporary monopoly in an author's original creations. This monopoly takes the form of six rights in areas where the author retains exclusive control. These rights are:

(1) the right of reproduction (i.e., copying),
(2) the right to create derivative works,
(3) the right to distribution,
(4) the right to performance,
(5) the right to display, and
(6) the digital transmission performance right.

The law of copyright protects the first two rights in both private and public contexts, whereas an author can only restrict the last four rights in the public sphere. Claims of infringement must show that the defendant exercised one of these rights. For example, if I create unauthorized videotape copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and distribute them to strangers on the street, then I have infringed both the copyright holder's rights of reproduction and distribution. If I merely re-enact The Wrath of Khan for my family in my home, then I have not infringed on the copyright. Names, ideas and facts are not protected by copyright.

Trademark law, in contrast, is designed to protect consumers from confusion as to the source of goods (as well as to protect the trademark owner's market). To this end, the law gives the owner of a registered trademark the right to use the mark in commerce without confusion. If someone introduces a trademark into the market that is likely to cause confusion, then the newer mark infringes on the older one. The laws of trademark infringement and dilution protect against this likelihood of confusion. Trademark protects names, images and short phrases.

Infringement protects against confusion about the origin of goods. The plaintiff in an infringement suit must show that defendant's use of the mark is likely to cause such a confusion. For instance, if I were an unscrupulous manufacturer, I might attempt to capitalize on the fame of Star Trek by creating a line of 'Spock Activewear.' If consumers could reasonably believe that my activewear was produced or endorsed by the owners of the Spock trademark, then I would be liable for infringement.

The law of trademark dilution protects against confusion concerning the character of a registered trademark. Suppose I created a semi-automatic assault rifle and marketed it as 'The Lt. Uhura 5000.' Even if consumers could not reasonably believe that the Star Trek trademark holders produced this firearm, the trademark holders could claim that my use of their mark harmed the family-oriented character of their mark. I would be liable for dilution.

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Question: What may be copyrighted?

Answer: In order to be copyrightable, a work must be

1. fixed in a tangible medium of expression ; and
2. original.

Copyrights do not protect ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries: they only protect physical representations. 17 U.S.C.

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Question: What is copyright infringement? Are there any defenses?

Answer: Infringement occurs whenever someone who is not the copyright holder (or a licensee of the copyright holder) exercises one of the exclusive rights listed above.

The most common defense to an infringement claim is "fair use," a doctrine that allows people to use copyrighted material without permission in certain situations, such as quotations in a book review. To evaluate fair use of copyrighted material, the courts consider four factors:

  1. the purpose and character of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of copying, and
  4. the market effect.

(17 U.S.C. 107)

The most significant factor in this analysis is the fourth, effect on the market. If a copier's use supplants demand for the original work, then it will be very difficult for him or her to claim fair use. On the other hand, if the use does not compete with the original, for example because it is a parody, criticism, or news report, it is more likely to be permitted as "fair use."

Trademarks are generally subject to fair use in two situations: First, advertisers and other speakers are allowed to use a competitor's trademark when referring to that competitor's product ("nominative use"). Second, the law protects "fair comment," for instance, in parody.

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Question: Am I free to copy elements of someone else's website verbatim?

Answer: No. While you are free to report the facts and ideas embodied in another person's article or web page, copyright protects the expression

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Question: Where is the fair use doctrine codified?

Answer: The fair use doctrine was originally a judge-made doctrine embodied in case law. See Folsom v. Marsh, 9 F.Cas. 342 (1841). Congress later codified it at Title 17 of the United States Code, Section 107.

This section provides:

Section 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A [setting forth copyright owners' exclusive rights and visual artists' artistic rights], the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include

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Question: Where can I find the text of the U.S. Copyright Act?

Answer: The federal Copyright Act may be found at

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Question: What exactly are the rights a trademark owner has?

Answer: In the US, trademark rights come from actual use of the mark to label one's services or products or they come from filing an application with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that states an intention to use the mark in future commerce. In most foreign countries, trademarks are valid only upon registration.

There are two trademark rights: the right to use (or authorize use) and the right to register.

The person who establishes priority rights in a mark gains the exclusive right to use it to label or identify their goods or services, and to authorize others to do so. According to the Lanham Act, determining who has priority rights in a mark involves establishing who was the first to use it to identify his/her goods.

The PTO determines who has the right to register the mark. Someone who registers a trademark with the intent to use it gains "constructive use" when he/she begins using it, which entitles him/her to nationwide priority in the mark. However, if two users claim ownership of the same mark (or similar marks) at the same time, and neither has registered it, a court must decide who has the right to the mark. The court can issue an injunction (a ruling that requires other people to stop using the mark) or award damages if people other than the owner use the trademark (infringement).

Trademark owners do not acquire the exclusive ownership of words. They only obtain the right to use the mark in commerce and to prevent competitors in the same line of goods or services from using a confusingly similar mark. The same word can therefore be trademarked by different producers to label different kinds of goods. Examples are Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets.

Owners of famous marks have broader rights to use their marks than do owners of less-well-known marks. They can prevent uses of their marks by others on goods that do not even compete with the famous product.

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Question: What are the limits of trademark rights?

Answer: There are many limits, including:

  • Fair Use
    There are two situations where the doctrine of fair use prevents infringement:
    1. The term is a way to describe another good or service, using its descriptive term and not its secondary meaning. The idea behind this fair use is that a trademark holder does not have the exclusive right to use a word that is merely descriptive, since this decreases the words available to describe. If the term is not used to label any particular goods or services at all, but is perhaps used in a literary fashion as part of a narrative, then this is a non-commercial use even if the narrative is commercially sold.
    2. Nominative fair use
      This is when a potential infringer (or defendant) uses the registered trademark to identify the trademark holder's product or service in conjunction with his or her own. To invoke this defense, the defendant must prove the following elements:
      • the product or service cannot be readily identified without the mark
      • he/she only uses as much of the mark as is necessary to identify the goods or services
      • he/she does nothing with the mark to suggest that the trademark holder has given his approval to the defendant
  • Parody Use
    Parodies of trademarked products have traditionally been permitted in print and other media publications. A parody must convey two simultaneous -- and contradictory -- messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody.
  • Non-commercial Use
    If no income is solicited or earned by using someone else's mark, this use is not normally infringement. Trademark rights protect consumers from purchasing inferior goods because of false labeling. If no goods or services are being offered, or the goods would not be confused with those of the mark owner, or if the term is being used in a literary sense, but not to label or otherwise identify the origin of other goods or services, then the term is not being used commercially.
  • Product Comparison and News Reporting
    Even in a commercial use, you can refer to someone else?s goods by their trademarked name when comparing them to other products. News reporting is also exempt.
  • Geographic Limitations
    A trademark is protected only within the geographic area where the mark is used and its reputation is established. For federally registered marks, protection is nationwide. For other marks, geographical use must be considered. For example, if John Doe owns the mark Timothy's Bakery in Boston, there is not likely to be any infringement if Jane Roe uses Timothy's Bakery to describe a bakery in Los Angeles. They don't sell to the same customers, so those customers aren't confused.
  • Non-competing or Non-confusing Use
    Trademark rights only protect the particular type of goods and services that the mark owner is selling under the trademark. Some rights to expansion into related product lines have been recognized, but generally, if you are selling goods or services that do not remotely compete with those of the mark owner, this is generally strong evidence that consumers would not be confused and that no infringement exists. This defense may not exist if the mark is a famous one, however. In dilution cases, confusion is not the standard, so use on any type of good or service might cause infringement by dilution of a famous mark.

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Question: Where can I find federal trademark law?

Answer: To be protected by federal trademark law, the marked goods and services must be used in interstate commerce. Federal trademark law is known as the Lanham Act. It protects marks that are registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office as well as those that are in use but never registered.

Court opinions and United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) regulations also interpret trademark rights and remedies. See the links to court sites provided by the Legal Information Insitute.

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Question: Can I post a copyrighted image on my website?

Answer: Maybe. In order to determine whether you can post a copyrighted image on your website, a court would apply the four factor fair use analysis.

First, it is important to determine the purpose and character of the use. If the use is commercial in nature, rather than for nonprofit education purposes, it less likely to be considered a fair use. To determine if it is commercial, a court would consider whether the use was exploitative and for direct profit, or if instead any commercial character was incidental. Also, if the use is transformative and for a different purpose than the original work, it is more likely the first factor will weigh in favor of finding a fair use. For example, in Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation, the court found that posting "thumbnail" images on a website was a fair use because such images served a different purpose than the original images.

Second, the court would consider the nature of the copyrighted work. The reproduction of a predominantly factual work is more likely to be considred a fair use than the reproduction of a highly creative one.

Third, it is important to consider the amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted image used. This inquiry looks at not only the quantity, but also on the expressive value, of the portion used. If a large amount of the original image is copied, or if the portion copied is substantially significant to the work as a whole, it is less likely the court will find such copying to be a fair use.

Finally, the most important factor in this inquiry is the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyright owner's work. If posting the image on the website leads to a reduction in sales of the copyrighted work or discourages people from accessing the copyright owner's website, a court is more likely to find that the use is not fair and has an adverse impact on the copyright owner's market.

These four factors will be evaluated by a court in a factual inquiry to determine whether the posting of the image would constitute a fair use.

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Question: What implication does alleged confusion have on claims of trademark infringement?

Answer: A mark that is confusingly similar so closely resembles a registered trademark that it is likely to confuse consumers as to the source of the product or service. Consumers could be likely to believe that the product with the confusingly similar mark is produced by the organization that holds the registered mark. Someone who holds a confusingly similar mark benefits from the good will associated with the registered mark and can lure customers to his/her product or service instead. Infringement is determined by whether your mark is confusingly similar to a registered mark. The factors that determine infringement include:

  • proof of actual confusion
  • strength of the established mark
  • proximity of the goods in the marketplace
  • similarity of the marks? sound
  • appearance and meaning
  • how the goods are marketed
  • type of product and how discerning the customer is
  • intent behind selecting the mark
  • likelihood of expansion in the market of the goods

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Question: Can a disclaimer help protect against claims of trademark infringement?

Answer: Sometimes. Since "consumer confusion" is core to a trademark infringement claim, if the disclaimer clearly indicates that you are using trademarks only to identify the trademark holder's goods or services (nominative fair use), it can help clear up confusion. A trademark doesn't give its holder the right to prevent you from talkng about a product.

At the same time, an inconspicuous disclaimer won't shield a site that is designed to confuse or mislead readers.

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