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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Copyright > Notices > MTA wants to dislocate iPod subway maps (NoticeID 2369, Printer-friendly version

MTA wants to dislocate iPod subway maps

September 14, 2005


Sender Information:
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Sent by: [Private]
New York, NY, 10017, US

Recipient Information:
William Bright

Sent via: web form
Re: ipodsubwaymaps fedback: your unauthorized use and coying [SIC] of NYC subway map

To: iPod Subway Maps Submissions
Subject: ipodsubwaymaps fedback: your unauthorized use and coying [SIC] of NYC subway map
Date: 9/14/05: 12:52 PM

We have no record of you having a license to include MTA's copyrighted New York City subway map on your website, or for you to authorize others to download a copy of the subway map.

You must cease and desist immediately. Take the NYC subway map off your webiste and confirm to me by email that you will not do this again. If you disagree with any of the above or otherwise wish to discuss this further, call or email me. Thank you

Senior Associate counsel
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
New York, NY 10017

FAQ: Questions and Answers

[back to notice text]

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: 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: 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 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: 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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