Chicago man gets community service for IBM ad 'graffiti'

A Chicago man accused of spray-painting Linux graffiti ads on Chicago sidewalks for IBM was ordered to perform 30 days of community service in recompense for criminal property damage resulting from his role in an ad campaign that went awry. The ads included three spray-painted "peace, love and Linux" symbols and were part of a national IBM ad push supporting the open-source Linux operating system.

The mock grassroots ad campaign also ran in Boston, New York and San Francisco, but it backfired in Chicago (see story).

"Its the first time we've encountered anything like this," said Ray Padvoiskis, a spokesman for Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department. "Whether it is an ad campaign or whatever, we treat paint on public property as graffiti."

The city made IBM pay more than $18,000 in fines to remove 105 sets of the graffiti -- a blue peace sign, heart and smiling penguin -- from Chicago sidewalks. Blue is the Armonk, N.Y.-based company's trademark color, and the penguin is the Linux mascot. That fee included the cost of cleanup plus a $50 fine for each sidewalk defacing, Padvoiskis said.

The city of Chicago also filed criminal charges against one of the graffiti artists.

Ali Morsy, 20, who was hired by one of IBM's advertising agencies, was charged with criminal property damage and possession of spray paint, a crime under Chicago city ordinances. The Chicago man admitted to painting the three symbols at one sidewalk location in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

Morsy was ordered to perform his community service with Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department and given a year of supervision by the courts. IBM paid the fine last Friday and agreed to discontinue the campaign.

The sentence comes as IBM today announced that it's working to make MontaVista Software Inc.'s Linux operating system work on IBM's set-top box systems.

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