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Apple's 'illegal' Boston iPod touch billboard disappears

A giant iPod touch billboard in Boston that found itself at the center of a political controversy has been removed without explanation.

According to The Boston Herald, the Planet Storage building on Traveler Street near Interstate 93 has removed the iPod touch banner from its side. The 13,750-square-foot advertisement was declared illegal by the Massachusetts Outdoor Advertising Board, but remained in place since the fall of 2007.

But this past weekend, the iPod touch advertisement was taken down and replaced with a mural of whales. Spokespeople for the city's Inspectional Services Department and the Boston Redevelopment Authority reportedly said they had no explanation for its removal. The building owner and Apple could not be reached for comment.

The companies behind the billboard previously agreed to pay $110,000 for a settlement in June — the largest known payment for any such advertising dispute — in order to allow the sign to remain.

Previous reports suggested the agreement to keep the advertisement displayed was reached with assistance from a top aide to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The aide reportedly helped a business acquaintance behind the banner work their way through the permitting process. The acquaintance also donated the $500 maximum-allowed political campaign contribution to Menino every year since 2005.

The mayor reportedly endorsed the giant billboard, despite his administration's usual opposition to such displays.

Photo credit: Matthew West, Boston Herald

The Massachusetts Outdoor Advertising Board had ruled that the sign was illegal because it did not advertise anything for sale inside the Planet Self-Storage facility. The owners of the building contended that they do sell iTunes gift cards.

In 2008, Apple opened a flagship store in Boston, at 815 Boylston St. It is a three-story building fronted by glass, with a large 6,384 square feet of floor space.