The MTA is Throwing its Weight Around - and I'm the TARGET / by VH McKenzie

I need your help, my dear Night Shifters.

I received a rather formidable communication today from New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority, regarding my paintings on the surface of discarded subway cards. I've shared the images here with you and, as you know, have them for sale in my Etsy shop.

The letter writer (an intern in the marketing department, hmph), wrote, in part:

"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......."


My big bad oil paintings, on the surface of discarded subway cards,

are apparently a huge threat to the sanctity of the MTA's intellectual property.  Unless, of course, I want to throw down some big cash and pay for the privilege of referencing the MTA in any way.

That ain't gonna happen.

And I wonder if the MTA is aware of this event:

Check it out -- a full gallery exhibit of art work on Metro Cards, solicited from artists from around the world (I heard about it too late and missed the deadline,  dammit, but I plan to submit for next year's show).

So this begs the question - Why single me out? A full-scale gallery show is permitted, at top-notch prices  of $100 per card, but my handful of offerings on Etsy, and at a lower price, are not?

If you google "art on Metro Cards" you'll see a slew of work, not to mention extensive coverage of the Singlefare exhibit at the Sloan Gallery, including coverage by The New York Times, Reuters, and the AP among others. What gives?

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.