Three years ago, I blogged about the theoretical consequences of the construction of a proposed 58-story office tower in downtown Midland. I was specifically concerned about the impact on the City of Midland’s logo, which features the city’s skyline, and I literally illustrated that impact by creating a tongue-in-cheek parody logo.
The post garnered exactly one comment – which was probably more than it merited, to be honest – and I never gave it a second thought. Until yesterday, that is, when I received an email from the city’s public information office. Here’s an excerpt from that email:
A couple of years ago you had made a parodied version of our logo in relation to the proposed Energy Tower development. It was a pretty funny post at the time, but I am still dealing to this day with people using the tongue-in-cheek Energy Tower version of the logo to represent us. The hospital literally just put out a joint release with that logo on it! I didn’t think much of it originally – just chuckled and let the reporters who used it for their stories know that they shouldn’t be pulling our logo from Google image search, and then I waited and hoped for it to fall down in SEO results. However, since it’s still an ongoing issue (3 years later), is there any way that you could maybe change the meta data of the file so that it no longer contains the phrase “City of Midland logo,” as it currently does in the file name and description? It’s mostly frustrating that people can’t tell it’s a fake, but because it has a file name that appears to represent it as our logo, I was hoping that you might be willing to help us possibly ensure that the correct logo is given more priority in a Google image search of “City of Midland logo.”
Well, I did what any fiercely-independent American blogger would do when confronted by The Man about something I created: I folded like a cheap suit.
The first thing I did was hop over to Google and did an image search for “city of midland texas logo.” Sure enough…mine lands in the second spot, but still behind the city’s official graphic. Why someone would pick the one I created over the real one, which is much higher quality, is beyond me.
Nevertheless, I immediately renamed the parody logo and changed the
alt tag in the HTML to completely remove any association with the City of Midland that Google (or other search engines) might try to make based on the coding of the website. In hindsight, I should have done that to begin with, but in keeping with the title of the post, the unintended consequences sneaked up on me.
I appreciate that the city didn’t ask me to completely remove the image and post (I’m not sure of the legal implications surrounding this issue), and given the reasonable nature of their request, I was more than happy to cooperate.
I’m not willing to completely shoulder the mea culpa all by my lonesome, though. Anyone who pulls a logo from an image search without checking the source – or in this case, without even looking closely at what they’re grabbing – is not going to garner much sympathy from me if the image turns out to be, well, you know – a lame parody.
Unintended consequences. They’re everywhere.