NYC Subway Thinks It's Muni, Attacks SF Designer

NYC's transit agency claims ownership of Muni-themed t-shirts

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Sep 4, 2009  |  Updated 1:45 PM PDT
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NYC Subway Thinks It's Muni, Attacks SF Designer

Tellumo via Flickr

The roll sign on a Muni Metro train heading to Castro on the T Third Street line

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As if it wasn't hard enough already to get around town on Muni, San Franciscans now face a new transit antagonist: the New York City subway.

There's been a recent boom in Muni-related t-shirts: Walter Koning's designs put slim route numbers in circles, while Sexpigeon's designs boast a visually-appealing flourish; and many more designs from various artists can be found on Zazzle.

You might expect Muni to object to artists making money off of the Muni name, but SF's transit agency has been remarkably cool.

New York's, on the other hand, has been unexpectedly high-strung: Joseph Moore, designer of shirts that feature Muni subway initials in colored circles, was the victim of a cease-and-desist from NYC's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

When pressed, the MTA seems to have realized its mistake. The lawsuit-happy MTA tends to sue first, ask questions later; and they just copy-pasted a warning to Joseph's shirt manufacturer without really thinking it through. So, it turns out, the MTA was threatening to sue someone on the other side of the country over something that might not even have been theirs to sue about.

It's a situation reminiscent of Muni's battles with NextBus Information Systems Inc, an East Bay outfit whose chief output appears to be angry letters. Even though Muni is the explicit owner of real-time arrival data and wants the public to have unfettered access, NBISI has made a habit out of threatening to sue software developers. Adding to the confusion: NextBus Information Systems Inc is not the same as NextBus, the company that actually supplies Muni's arrival data.

So next time Muni makes you late for an appointment, remember, it could be worse: at least they're not suing you.

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