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The Courts

Time Zone Database Has New Home After Lawsuit 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-us-handle-this dept.
networkBoy writes "ICANN has taken stewardship of the time zone database after its original operators were sued for copyright infringement by an astrology software company, saying they will 'deal with any legal matters as they arise'. From the article: 'Without this database and others like it, computers would display Greenwich Mean Time, or the time in London when it isn't on summer time. People would have to manually calculate local time when they schedule meetings or book flights.'"
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Time Zone Database Has New Home After Lawsuit

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  • So nobody else is capable of looking at a clock, comparing it to GMT, calculating the difference, and typing the result into a program that calculates the time from then until the daylight savings time change?
    • You can certainly do this for your local time zone. If you're booking a flight elsewhere, you can't see the clocks in that time zone.

      The database in question is just a list of what everybody around the world would type in.
      • by tqk (413719)

        The database in question is just a list of what everybody around the world would type in.

        ... mixed in with a whole bunch of local politics. In Canada, Newfoundland is half an hour off the next time zone. Saskatchewan doesn't do DST. Etc., etc. Check into Brazil's troubles the last time DST was defined. It was a mess.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's not what the TZ database contains. It has city/country to timezone mapping, but it also has historical information. Timezones change, daylight savings time changes. The TZ database contains all that. That's why it is useful.

    • by wmbetts (1306001)

      For the vast majority of people that is sadly impossible.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      I was traveling through South America for a month, hit most of the major countries. It's bigger than you think. Five countries in four weeks is a lot. Anyways, I was using Ubuntu (9.10 UNR) and Gmail on a netbook to handle most of my affairs while I was out of the country.

      I'm not sure what it was exactly, either the system clock or on google's end, but when I crossed from Brazil in to Uruguay, my system clock, gmail and gcalendar got royally screwed up, to the point that I was 3 hours early to my internatio

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      You are right. Why should we bother to use computers? Nobody else is capable of calculating the time of day looking at the sky and scratching numbers on a slate?
    • This is the sort of routine task of calculation that we use computer programs to automate. Sure, it's not much trouble to do this trivial task once, on one computer. It's another matter to do this, and a few thousand other similarly trivial tasks on a few thousand servers in a datacenter daily.

  • Why can't a group of people just derive the same information from different (public domain) sources?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      They can, but then they need to have enough funding to prove that is what they did in court. It does not matter if you are non-infringing if you don't have the money to prove it. Welcome to American justice.

  • ICANN is the same group of idiots who decided in spite of numerous objections that selling gTLDs - and giving away all the rights and responsibilities for them - was a good idea. These guys don't have the best interest of anyone other than themselves in mind, and will probably sell this off to the highest bidder in a matter of months.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DamonHD (794830)

      Hmm, I don't think that the (non-US) governments whose countries use those gTLDs were really keen for them to be controlled from the US...

      Rgds

      Damon

      • by ragefan (267937)

        Hmm, I don't think that the (non-US) governments whose countries use those gTLDs were really keen for them to be controlled from the US...

        What you are referring to are ccTLDs, which are different from gTLDs. gTLDs are the non-country domains, such as .com, .net, .mobi or .aero.

    • by game kid (805301)

      These guys don't have the best interest of anyone other than themselves in mind, and will probably sell this off to the highest bidder in a matter of months.

      On the bright side, at least we'll get to see GoDaddy commercials where Danica Patrick makes seductive innuendo about ISO 8601.

      "Want to put your +11:00 in my 2011-10-17T17:21:00, baby?" *continues with random double entendres and IndyCar lingo*

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      I also have a problem on that, they could be dumb enough to prevent the database to be used by GPL software...
    • by Tacvek (948259)

      ICANN is not taking over maintenance of the timezone database. The plan has been for a long time to maintain it under the IANA.

      While technically the IANA is part of ICANN, they are still quite distinct. I have nothing but respect for the IANA, while I have nothing but disdain for ICANN (the policy organization). The difference? ICANN's board is not able to meddle with IANA, or the IAB (Internet Architecture Board) would designate a new IANA. Without the IANA, ICANN could only set, but not enforce policy, a

      • by Tacvek (948259)

        I should also note that the database is currently being maintained by Robert Elz, in the absence of a formally appointed TZ Coordinator. IANA has effectively accepted him as interim TZ Coordinator[1] by they way of adopting the release he made on October 10 as the initial IANA published tzdata file.

        [1] Until a formal TZ Coordinator is chosen by mailing list consensus and confirmed by the IESG, as per the as yet unpublished RFC.

  • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:32PM (#37740642)
    This lawsuit is a no-brainer. Time zone data would without a doubt be an unoriginal database, meaning that under Feist v. Rural, it isn't eligible for copyright in the US.
    • by msobkow (48369) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:37PM (#37740724) Homepage Journal

      Doesn't matter if it's baseless and would get tossed out of court -- eventually. The former database maintainer didn't have the budget to fight back.

      If you want to blame someone, blame the "justice" system that allows frivolous lawsuits to be filed in the first place.

      • by Jim Tyre (100017) on Monday October 17, 2011 @01:16PM (#37741254) Homepage

        Doesn't matter if it's baseless and would get tossed out of court -- eventually. The former database maintainer didn't have the budget to fight back.

        If you want to blame someone, blame the "justice" system that allows frivolous lawsuits to be filed in the first place.

        EFF is representing Arthur D. Olson (the former database maintainer).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darinbob (1142669)

        A system that forbids even the filing of frivolous lawsuits would be unfair. It would raise the burden too high on legitimate lawsuits. "Disallow" means you give the court clerks the authority to glance over documents and just shred them if they decide they're frivolous. Leave that decision up to the judges instead.

    • Great. Now, how many million are you willing to spend on lawyers to say that in court?

    • by Eil (82413)

      Will I finally be able to buy my own vanity timezone for $200,000?

    • by fnj (64210)

      You know that, do you? I rather doubt it myself. The authors of the book on which much of the data in the database is based did a lot of research in the course of authoring it. There is data for many, and not a few obscure, locales at various times in history. You can't just call up the Time Czar and say "gimme all the information," you know. The linux time engine is not just for the present moment. It deals with historical time with its many local quirks too, AFAIK back to some time late in 1901 (1970-01-0

      • You seem to be arguing that the authors can have a copyright on it because they worked so hard on it. It doesn't matter if they put a billion manhours into it, because US copyright is based on originality, not the sweat of the brow doctrine. That's why I mentioned Feist v. Rural.
  • by mykos (1627575) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:32PM (#37740650)
    Time zones are not necessary in today's world.

    And while we're at it, let's switch to metric clocks.

    • What's wrong with time since the Unix epoch? I'm using that and I'm doing fine!

    • by Spectre (1685)

      Time zones are not necessary in today's world.

      And while we're at it, let's switch to metric clocks.

      Sure, no problem. What is the current .beat?

      Anybody old enough to remember Swatch Internet Time [wikipedia.org]?

      • Sure, no problem. What is the current .beat?

        Anybody old enough to remember Swatch Internet Time [wikipedia.org]?

        Hey who are you calling old ? I bet you can still put a Beat clock applet next to your snazzy homepage hit counter if you want.

    • So, in your world is 12:00 during the business day in Tokyo? How about Los Angeles? What about Harare?
      The reason we need timezones is so that we can easily know whether or not a particular time is a reasonable time to be able to contact someone in a geographically distant location. If you are scheduling a teleconference with people from somewhere distant and I tell it will be 3:00 AM there at the time you are proposing, you know that, except in special edge cases, that is not a reasonable time to expect t
      • So, in your world is 12:00 during the business day in Tokyo? How about Los Angeles? What about Harare?

        Today you need to look up a database of time differences so you can tell what time it is now in Tokyo. If everyone used the same clock, you would need to look up what typical working hours are in Tokyo. Same work involved. Once you've called Tokyo a few times you would remember what their workday is. As an added bonus, there would be no confusion as to what *day* it is there, like there is now.

        The reason we need timezones is so that we can easily know whether or not a particular time is a reasonable time to be able to contact someone in a geographically distant location.

        If you base your decision on local time alone, you are going to be annoying a lot of programmers. 12:00 is far, far

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Having only one time solves a single problem - communication of time to a remote location. There is already a solution for that - use UTC or GMT. However, for everyday life it would really suck. Local time is better for most things because it is portable.

          If I am New York and want to call California, I still need to know what is an appropriate time to do that - a single time zone does not help. As you said, I still need to do some sort of translation. However, what if I actually GO to California? With

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      In the off chance that you are serious:

      1) Most people still live by the sun. Some may be a few hours earlier than others (morning people) and some people may be a few hours later than people (night owls), but there is a definite correlation between when the sun is "up" and when people live their lives.

      2) People find it easier to translate between time zones than they do between local norms. "Let's see, hour business hours are between 3.33 and 6.66 while their business hours are between 8.85 and 2.18. Whi

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:36PM (#37740714)
    we can all just switch to stardate now!
  • Wikipedia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Can everyone just update the Wikipedia entry for your city with timezone information? It would be nice if it were in an easy to recognize format along with LAT/LONG position so this can all be scraped into a database via software.

    • Re:Wikipedia (Score:4, Informative)

      by S.O.B. (136083) on Monday October 17, 2011 @02:02PM (#37741904)

      That's fine for converting current times but for comparing an historical time to the current time you need to know if there have been any timezone changes. That's what this whole thing is about.

      • by fnj (64210)

        It would seem that rather obvious point is beyond the intellect of many to realize.

    • Re:Wikipedia (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Carnildo (712617) on Monday October 17, 2011 @08:41PM (#37745746) Homepage Journal

      The database is more than just "what time is it in New York City?". It's also useful for answering questions like "On June 15, 1988 at 13:00 UTC, what time was showing on the clocks in Riyadh?".

      (That particular question is why the zoneinfo entry for Saudi Arabia is almost ten times the size of any other entry.)

  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Monday October 17, 2011 @12:47PM (#37740870) Journal

    .

    When are we going to start burning all the Astrologists as Witches?

    This lawsuit would seem to be ample provocation.

    .

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      Right now we're too busy burning economists. Astrologists will have to wait their turn, right after TV evangelists.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Hey, many of the witches I know would be quite offended if you started comparing them to astrologers!

    • by Forbman (794277)

      Can we put patent troll lawyers and most MBAs at the front of the line first?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fnj (64210)

      Hopefully never more in a world in which I live.

      You know what's instructive? To contemplate the roll of human beings who Christians have burned at the stake, drowned, beheaded, tortured, and otherwise grievously harmed, then repeat the exercise for other religions, then finally point me to a case where astrologers have done that to anyone.

  • that's a new one... kinky, I like that... coming up next, specific types of breathing copyrighted too :)

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Monday October 17, 2011 @02:37PM (#37742320) Journal
    The URL at ICANN seems to be http://www.iana.org/time-zones [iana.org]

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