Surrey is still trying to shake its reputation as one of Canada's most crime-riddled cities following a series of controversial T-shirts that are making the rounds online.
At the end of January, the City of Surrey sent a cease-and-desist order meant for Don Pitcairn, the resident behind T-shirt parody website surreyshirts.com, opposing several shirts on his website that purportedly put Surrey in a poor light.
The designs included such slogans as "The Future Dies Here" - in reference to the city's motto - and "Better Safe than Surrey", which was brandished with six bullet holes next to a semi-automatic pistol.
"'The Future Dies Here', that shirt has an anti-gun, anti-gang message to it," said Pitcairn, who learned about the letter after it was addressed to Jason Arsenault of surreyclothing.com, another resident who designs edgy Surrey-themed shirts.
"We thought it was kind of ironic that the city would take offence to it, especially considering we had five gun murders supposedly all linked to organized crime in January alone."
The order cited trademarks on the City's current logo, including "the future lives here" tagline, as well as the historic "Welcome to Surrey" beaver logo, which appeared in similar designs on two other shirts. The order called for ceased production and sale of the merchandise and that all existing products be removed from the website and destroyed.
"To say that they think they have copyright protection on the logo that we designed that has a handgun, they'd better have a Glock 9mm on the Surrey signs in order to say that," said Pitcairn. "That shirt has a message and maybe they just didn't get it."
When asked about the parody of the city's logo, Coun. Bruce Hayne - whose former company thornleyHAYNE Creative Communications designed the city's current logo and tagline - called the redesign "unfortunate" and "childish."
"It goes to a lack of taste and a lack of judgment," said Hayne. "What we created six or seven years ago as the new brand of Surrey, I think, is holding up extremely well."
While he acknowledged that parody is permitted under law, he finds the slogans themselves to be worn-out potshots on the city.
"Surrey now is being seen as an up-and-coming and exciting place to be, so I don't think those old Surrey jokes of 20 years ago are applicable at all today," he said. "I think people will see it for what it is, and it's, as I said, a rather sophomoric and sad attempt at humour."
Pitcairn said that while he believes more and more people are proud to be from Surrey, its reputation for crime is still relevant today.
"Surrey, unfortunately, is synonymous with gangland shootings," said Pitcairn, adding that Surrey's reputation for gang violence is known across Canada. "This is something that we need to take control of."
He added that he felt the logos produced for Surrey Shirts were distinguished enough from the originals that any legal action against his website would be outside the city's copyright, or that his work would be protected under political satire. He claims to have used different fonts in the lettering of the designs, among other changes.
"You copyright your logo, not similarities," he said.
In the wake of widespread media coverage, the City of Surrey has backed down on the cease-and-desist order. The city's legal department has not yet responded to the Now's requests for an interview.
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