25 February 2006

TTC - The Bitter Way

Another humourless corporation that pretends to care about its community sics its lawyers on someone whose affection is twisted in a misguided bid to "protect" its so-called intellectual property. This time, it is the grim folks at the Toronto Transit Commission who issued a cease-and-desist letter to RobotJohnny for his anagram map of the TTC subway system, about which I blogged a couple days ago. Johnny received a "TTC has not granted, and expressly denies, permission to you or the Website to reproduce or otherwise use TTC intellectual property in whole or in part" letter. I went to the TTC complaint page, and sent the following complaint:
This is a complaint about your lawyers, who recently sent a cease and desist letter to RobotJohnny (http://www.robotjohnny.com) concerning an anagram map of the TTC subway system. You may not be aware that this is part of a worldwide phenomenon that has occurred over the last week of creating similar maps of transit systems in major cities throughout the world. In fact, Toronto was the second to be created, now among dozens.

The creation of such a map, and its dissemination, demonstrates tremendous affection for the service, and provides the type of goodwill that has been lacking of late, especially in the wake of the impending fare hike. The cease and desist letter not only demonstrates the lack of a sense of humour, but the lack of a sense of community as well. It has also been demonstrated time and again that such actions, once publicized, significantly damage the reputation of the company, and only lead to the wider dissemination of the so-called offending material.

I urge you to reconsider your stance on this before it hits the wider Toronto media, Monday morning.
In a UCaPP* world, a heavy-handed attempt to "protect" one's so-called intellectual property against a parody like this (which, by the way, would likely be considered fair dealing under Canada's copyright law) only serves to damage reputation and goodwill. In essence, this is a reversal effect that is to be expected under today's conditions of instantaneous communication. On the other hand, playing along with the gag would go a long way towards fostering the type of public image the TTC attempts to portray.

*UCaPP = Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate

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