Fishs Eddy, a well-known housewares store at Broadway and 19th Street, is “unfairly reaping a benefit from an association with the Port Authority and the attacks” of Sept. 11. How? By selling two lines of goods — “212 New York Skyline” and “Bridge and Tunnel” — that are adorned with fanciful, cartoonish depictions of the twin towers, the new 1 World Trade Center and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, labeled with their names, all of which the agency claims as its own assets.
The Port Authority, the steward of the very idea of 9/11, and all that surrounds and permeates it, is correct in disrupting the production of obnoxious tourist bait like New York City-themed housewares, but it is clearly thinking too small in its prosecution of the sanctity of the skyline of New York City and the policing of who is allowed to derive profit from it.
Has the Port Authority considered the vast scale of the wealth of imagery of the new World Trade Center and 9/11 memorial that is captured and posted to social networks every day? For free? With the sophisticated image recognition algorithms developed for products like Google Image Search, YouTube’s automated copyright enforcement, and Facebook’s facial recognition products, it would be trivial for Instagram or Facebook to detect iconic images of the World Trade Center and allow the Port Authority to extract the proper tithings owed to it and the families of 9/11 victims (who would, of course, be exempt from paying). Every photo posted of the World Trade Center to Instagram or Facebook or Twitter is fundamentally for the social profit of the individual posting it, and like all profits, it comes at the expense of others.