Who Knew Transit Maps Were Copyrighted?

The MTA, the folks who run New York’s subways and busses and such, weren’t the only ones to smack a cease and desist down on iPod Subway Maps last week, but they’re the first to tell they can pay $500 for the privilege of distributing those maps in an iPod-readable format — but only for non-commercial distribution.

Cluetrain moment: doesn’t the MTA understand that services like this serve potential tourists like me? Don’t they understand that the availability of such maps increases both the likelihood of my visit and the commercial opportunities of my visit (tourists don’t spend money in subways)?

What I really want to leave with, however, is this: Barb Dybwad at Engadget got this one right when she aknowledged the two sides of the issue and added:

These are exactly the kinds of cases in which traditional copyright law feels unsatisfying in the age of digital mashups, and we can only see the demand for these kinds of “information conversions” increasing.

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