A couple of years ago I made an open source parody fun image generation / service information sign maker and today it’s been shut down due to lawyers from Transport for London (TfL).
I made it in a weekend as during the week I was doing my civic duty with some good legal professionals on a period of Jury Service. People made images to share with their friends, make jokes, announce anniversaries, quote prayers, tell poetry, advertise events, leave personal messages and write inspirational comments and so on. I have not seen any offensive images that people made with it either on the site or on Twitter. When it launched it got a fair bit of praise and positive coverage from many places including BBC America, ITV, The Londonist, The Atlantic Cities, The Guardian, The Next Web, B3ta.com, etc..
This Thursday (10 Dec 2015) I got an email with a scanned letter from a lawyer from Transport for London (TfL), a UK public transport authority. Here it is with names, email and addresses redacted.
So, I’ve destroyed the site, deleted the code and emailed them my confirmation of that. I decided to do it as soon as I was able (about 24 hours of the request) as I didn’t want the distraction and hassle, so I can get back to work.
As of last Thursday the site tubesign.herokuapp.com is offline and I cannot put it back online. The Ruby code, misc files and the CC-By-SA images on Heroku where it was hosted have all been deleted. My repository on GitHub has also been deleted although others may have copied their own forks of the MIT licensed code. It was only a few lines of unspectacular Ruby code anyhow.
Some people have speculated that this may also have been due to candidate for Mayor of London and MP for Tooting, Mr Sadiq Kahn tweeting one of the images someone made showing the hashtag “#youaintnomuslimbruv” – and then dozens of people replying saying it was made using the parody website. Perhaps we will never know, it doesn’t really matter. It appears that whilst a Labour MP, ‘Mr Khan is no Corbynite leftwinger‘ but one would imagine that he might stick up for RMT Union members against TfL management. And so should you also support the staff during their industrial actions – it was these same TfL bosses who issued this takedown.
I was surprised to see that letter in my inbox and disappointed that TfL were not willing to be more civil and reasonable in their approach. However, it’s not the first time TfL have acted in this way before in a case about a fan website about tube map variations – I remember it going around the blogs at the time in 2006.
Big institutions struggle and work slowly with technology but is it just me or is it a bit surprising to see how they have made no progress in almost ten years?
Now back to making some better transport maps.