MBTA Map Designer Says A Playstation Video Game Used His Image Without Asking

Cameron Booth was "furious" about his artwork being poached without permission, but the problem has since been resolved.

A transit enthusiast and designer wasn’t pleased when he found out the makers of a new Playstation video game used an image he created of an MBTA map in one of the scenes of their game, without asking him first.

“Basically, I’m f****** furious,” wrote Cameron Booth, on his TransitMaps blog on Tuesday. “I will not have my work stolen like this.”

The game, called The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic adventure that involves first-person shootouts with the undead after the human race was “decimated by a modern plague,” was created by the video game production company Naughty Dog, and is available for Playstation 3. The company is famous for their creation of Crash Bandicoot.

Prior to its release, screen shots of specific MBTA stations featured in The Last of Us were posted on the company’s website, showing parts of the Orange and Blue Lines.

Booth said he found out about his map being used without permission when he stumbled upon a “randomly-discovered Tweet” on Twitter from someone who had captured a screen shot of the gameplay. The person who discovered the map’s use praised the gaming company for their accuracy, despite the fact that they didn’t reach out to Booth for the OK to use the original artwork.


Booth’s map is a redesign of the MBTA’s official subway map that he created in March of 2012. He compared the two maps on his blog.

He said he reached out to Naughty Dog to talk about the use of his map, but had not heard back from any representatives from the company. “I am attempting to open communications with them now to ask where they came across the image, how it ended up in their game—with very pointed questions about their approvals and legal process—and what kind of compensation I can expect for the theft of my work,” Booth wrote on his blog.

By Tuesday afternoon, however, he was able to get through, and had a “constructive conversation” with the company about the use of his image. “I can say that they do acknowledge their error in using my map and were very apologetic for it. I likewise apologized for my initial vitriolic post. A lot of mutual respect for each other’s creative work. It’s been a hell of a last couple of days,” Booth wrote.

Prior to resolving the conflict, Booth assumed that because the company couldn’t claim rights to the T’s actual map, they used the redesigned version to avoid paying “hefty fees,” something Booth initially called “ completely unacceptable” and “hugely ironic,” because designers are always complaining about piracy in the industry, he said. “Naughty Dog seems to have known that they couldn’t use the official map without paying a hefty license fee, so it looks like they just went on the Internet and found another one. [Because], you know, images on the Internet are free for anyone to use, right? Not,” Booth said on Tuesday in the original blog post.

Before Naughty Dog returned his call, Booth’s blog post spurred a lengthy conversation about the rights to use imagery, and whether or not he had anything to complain about in the first place. “You would never have gotten paid to use the map, they would have just made their own, [they are] a large company with a lot of perfectly capable designers, [and] making a map like that isn’t hard. Really just be glad for the exposure, see if they’ll give you some free [stuff]…and let it go—[you’re] not going to be getting a payday for this,” one person wrote.

As of Tuesday afternoon more than 61 comments were posted to Booth’s blog debating the issue.

Boston reached out to the MBTA to find out if they were contacted by Naughty Dog about using images associated with the T, but did not immediately receive a reply.

This isn’t the first problem that the creators of The Last of Us have been called out for, either. Actress Ellen Page allegedly blasted workers from Naughty Dog for creating a character in the game that looked exactly like her.