Archive for April, 2011


April 10th, 2011 No comments

Jen Doll of The Village Voice, in her article here by way of EV Grieve, discusses the MTA’s response to one NYC artist using the MetroCard as her canvas. Specifically, that response is a cease and desist. Unsurprisingly the artist (VH McKenzie) has had a reaction somewhere between “meh” and “no f*ckin’ way man” on her blog. She closes with the following plea:

“Want to help a struggling artist out?  Email  Mark Heavey Chief of Marketing & Advertising at the MTA. His email is — and urge him to permit the unfettered use of the discarded cards in art. BIG THANK YOU TO YOU ALL!”

So at first I was like hey man artistic license and that’s bullshit and you go gurl and whatnot. But then I read the MTA’s cease and desist and forgot all about those feelings and became interested instead in the letter itself. Here is it:

“While we at the MTA are flattered that you recognize the value of our brand to consumers, please understand the MTA has a well-established product licensing program which markets authorized versions of such products. While we have no record of your firm requesting or being granted such authorization, we are prepared to initiate discussions with you about acquiring a license from us.

The MTA’s intellectual property is protected by applicable copyright law and trademark law. The manner in which your web site markets these items, such as your reference to New York City subway, implies involvement and/or endorsement of your business and products by the MTA.

The MTA considers its intellectual property to be a valuable asset which we protect from dilution and confusion in the marketplace. The MTA obtained and maintains its registered trademarks, copyrights and intellectual property in the public interest. It is important for the MTA to be able to communicate with the public about its services, as well as operate its established licensed products program, without unauthorized users of its intellectual property creating confusion.

Please reply to me by email or in writing to acknowledge receipt of this notice, and to indicate your intention to remove this item from Etsy and cease any sales of the item..

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation…….”


Does anyone out there feel this might be the nicest cease and desist ever to be served?  I mean “While we’re flattered…” is a phrase that, just a hunch, probably isn’t included in the flurry of filings on’s one-click or those awesome Bratz dolls that look like Paula Abdul except their faces are more mobile. The whole thing is,  “…so kinda, gee, I really hate to but ya know you could like license it and give us the fee. Let’s talk!” That fee, according to Mark Heavey in the Marketing and Corporate Communications office of the MTA, is, “…10% of net sales, which is a small price to pay for the ability to market the products as “Officially Licensed by MTA” and the potential to sell the product through the MTA’s own stores.”

You know I like to hate on the MTA as much as the next guy. But that sounds awfully sensible. The combination of a tone of civility in the cease and desist and a reasonable, well thought-out licencing fee that includes the potential to sell the product through the MTA’s stores strikes me as a fair deal. Sure, one could argue artistic licence and just say screw it (which is what the artist appears to have done) and risk legal action (unlikely given that this is an artist selling handmade art on Etsy and not cranking them out by the thousands on a stand-alone website). But its good to know that the MTA isn’t staffed to the brim with total morons. Mark Heavey has given me a timely reminder that even at the most loathed institutions there are always the occasional misfits operating with at least one foot firmly planted in the real world the rest of us lowly commuters share.




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