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London Underground sets lawyers on tube spotting geek

Blogger bashed for map mashup

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Geoff Marshall is that rare creature - a big fan of London Underground. So much so that he holds the official world record for shortest time to visit every station on the network - 18 hours and 35 minutes fact fans. In August 2005 he repeated the effort with 60 other people to raise money for the charity set up for victims of the 7 July bombings.

But that wasn't enough to stop London Underground's lawyers from threatening Marshall when they realised his blog included a London Underground map with station names replaced with anagrams.

The "craze" of re-mixing underground maps started on boing boing in early February and would have stayed there except for over-active lawyers.

Marshall got a letter from London Underground solicitors Healeys last week concerned about his use of the "roundel" (the Tube logo) and maps. After talking to the lawyer he was told to remove the offending graphics or they would get his ISP to pull the site down.

The maps have been removed from Marshall's blog, which is here, but are available elsewhere after a cursory Google. Register Tower's nearest station is Newt Arrester - one for London mayor Ken Livingstone surely...

London Underground sent us this statement:

“London Underground is the world’s oldest and best known metro system.

“The present Tube map created by Harry Beck in 1931 is a design classic and has been the inspiration for metro maps throughout the world.

“Transport for London holds the copyright for both the world famous Underground roundel and Tube map. We strongly believe that we have a responsibility to protect the Underground’s heritage and will take the appropriate measures to protect its use.

“Permission must be sought and licensed by TfL by anyone wishing to reproduce the Tube map or produce it in an alternative format. Numerous requests are received every week seeking permission to publish alternative versions of the Tube map.

“We do allow some alternative versions to be produced. The most recent was a musical Tube map which was produced by The Guardian to chart the best of 20th Century music at the beginning of February. Each Tube line was a musical genre and each station was an artist.

"Where we come across examples of unauthorised use of either the Tube map or the Underground roundel we investigate. In the first instance we ask that the author discontinues its use and where appropriate, legal action will be undertaken.

"We are not just talking about one or two alternative maps being produced each year but literally hundreds and we cannot allow alternative versions to be produced unhindered without some regulation.

"The Tube map relates to a working Underground system and we have to consider the needs of residents and visitors who use the network." ®

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