Maps, Including TTC Subway Maps, are Protected by Copyright

Canadian Copyright and Maps

Under the Canadian Copyright Act, maps are protected as an artistic work. The Act defines artistic work as including “paintings, drawings, maps, charts, plans, photographs, engravings, sculptures, works of artistic craftsmanship, architectural works, and compilations of artistic works.” Maps of cities, subway systems and countries are all protected by copyright. Even if the map does not contain a copyright symbol or notice, it is still protected by copyright (unless it is an old map and the copyright duration in it has expired.)

Subway Maps and Copyright

In a recent New York Times article, C Train Cafe? Transit Agency May Put Up Fight, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was reported to issue hundreds of demands against copyright infringers each year to a variety of unauthorized users from independent artists to large department stores. Many of these demands are for the unauthorized use of the NY subway map.

A quick search led to a 2006 case when the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) issued a cease-and-desist letter to a website owner who posted an anagram of all of the subway station stops. See Anagrammed TTC Subway Map Pulled Due to Copyright Concerns. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple to find the proper rights and permissions procedures from the TTC to use its subway map.

London Underground Map

Transport for London, however, does make it easy to obtain permission to use its well known Underground map. It has a Tube and National Rail map licensing page. The page states: “The Tube map is protected by copyright and the logo is a registered trademark. To use the map in your design, you need to get permission…” It further states that to use the London Underground map in a commercial publication, you need to sign a licence agreement and possibly pay a licensing fee. Details on uses requiring permission as well as licensing fees are set out here.

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