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Apple stole my tagline, says NY street artist

James De La Vega claims "You are more powerful than you think" is his line that's been appropriated for the iPhone 5S.

Stolen power? Apple/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

To sacrifice yourself on the altar of originality takes courage.

How can you be sure that some unconscious influence didn't work its way inside your head and then manipulate you into some form of artistic reproduction?

Just as Steve Jobs and Picasso were happy to steal rather than beg or borrow, so too the great Cupertino Corporation, post-Jobs, is happy to purloin original work -- at least according to one New York street artist.

The New York Daily News paints it that street artist Jason De La Vega insists he was the first to pen "You are more powerful than you think." Indeed, this verbal formulation was included in his "Become Your Dream" series for 10 years.

Please, therefore, imagine his entrails when he saw these very same words -- give or take a contraction or two -- used recently to advertise the iPhone 5S.

De La Vega is not some unknown hobo, walking the streets, using borrowed chalk. His work has been used by fashion designer Tory Burch (with permission).

Moreover, he said that when a company called Quotable Cards wanted to use his "powerful" line for one of its magnets, it asked for permission.

Having myself spent many years staring out the window of various ad agencies, I know that sometimes you have no idea where ideas come from. At other times, though, creatives are busily scouring any sort of media to find something they can pinch for their own purposes.

De La Vega insists that Apple's creatives knew about his work. He told the Daily News: "These guys were well aware of that when they decided to use it as a way to motivate their base to buy their phones."

How base. But, there again, how can he be sure? Is it simply his fame on which he relies? Or might he have some concrete evidence from the streets of New York?

I have contacted Apple to see if the company will respond to these accusations, and I will update should I become empowered with Apple's words.

De La Vega says his lawyer has already sent a cease-and-desist letter to Apple. In fact, what seems to offend him most is not the alleged theft, but the idea that he, Jason De La Vega, somehow endorses Apple's message.

He also told the Daily News: "This is my way of building a movement. (Apple) should pay me because I created it and they've used it to create national excitement about a product and huge profits for themselves."

Can he be sure that Che Guevara didn't once utter this verbal formulation? What about Nikola Tesla? Or even Dick Cheney in some private gathering?

I wonder if De La Vega is less powerful than he thinks.