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The Internet Electronic Frontier Foundation The Courts Technology

EFF Wins Protection For Time Zone Database 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-about-time dept.
First time accepted submitter TempestRose writes "The trials and tribulations of the time zone database sued by an astrology software company are finally over. From the article: 'The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce that a copyright lawsuit threatening an important database of time zone information has been dismissed. The astrology software company that filed the lawsuit, Astrolabe, has also apologized and agreed to a 'covenant not to sue' going forward, which will help protect the database from future baseless legal actions and disruptions.'"
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EFF Wins Protection For Time Zone Database

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:11AM (#39135571)
    Astrolube ... 'cuz they just got screwed
  • whooo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by starblazer (49187) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:11AM (#39135573) Homepage

    patent and copyright trolls gone mad..... seriously... a text file with cities and the time offset?? when will the stupidity end?

    • Re:whooo (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sique (173459) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:17AM (#39135595) Homepage

      In most EU legislations, databases are copyright (or Author's right) protected, even when the actual items in the database are not. So a database of historical events or facts actually can be protected.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        And in that case it is Olson who gets the protection because he coordinated the collection of the data.

      • Re:whooo (Score:5, Informative)

        by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:01AM (#39135835)

        In most EU legislations, databases are copyright (or Author's right) protected, even when the actual items in the database are not. So a database of historical events or facts actually can be protected.

        As I understand copyright law, that is also the case in the US if the collection meets some minimum requirements - however the underlying facts aren't copyrightable; which was the issue with the TZ dB. Anyone can compile a list of sunrise times from copyrighted sources and publish it; they can't however copy the book it's in and make it available to others.

      • Re:whooo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Zironic (1112127) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:22AM (#39136019)

        It's a bit tricky. Since the database is copyrighted (Your arrangement of the data) but the data itself isn't, it's illegal to copy the database and use it without permission, but it's legal to make your own Database containing all the same facts.

        I think what most Database authors do is that they put bogus data entries into their database and if they can find their entries in someone elses database, they can show that it's a copy rather then a independent work.

        • Copyright trap (Score:3, Informative)

          by yogidog98 (1800862)

          I think what most Database authors do is that they put bogus data entries into their database and if they can find their entries in someone elses database, they can show that it's a copy rather then a independent work.

          These are commonly called 'copyright traps' or 'fictitious entries'

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictitious_entry [wikipedia.org]

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I think what most Database authors do is that they put bogus data entries into their database and if they can find their entries in someone elses database, they can show that it's a copy rather then a independent work.

          Only in the lab. In the real world, the users take care of adding the bogus facts.

        • by mdmkolbe (944892)

          it's illegal to copy the database and use it without permission

          However, it is perfectly legal to copy the facts from the database since the copyright extends only to the creative aspects of the collection. See Feist v. Rural.

          • by Zironic (1112127)

            What relevance exactly does an United States court case have on European database law?

      • by sjames (1099)

        The database as a whole can be, but not the individual facts in it. Just by mixing in other sources of facts and changing the format to suit the particular purpose, the TZ database is not an infringement on the Astrolabe database as a whole.

    • Re:whooo (Score:5, Funny)

      by DZign (200479) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ehreva}> on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:18AM (#39135601) Homepage

      they probably read in the stars they weren't going to win :)

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Astrolabe made a mistake, they were informed about it and quickly corrected their mistake.

      TFA states that the lawyers should have known facts cannot be copyrighted, but some parties have been trying to redefine copyright to include everything, so I can understand their mistake.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Their intentions were still malicious. A bit of common sense would reveals their greed.

      • by sjames (1099) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:57AM (#39136969) Homepage

        I can believe Astrolabe made an error, but I would sure like to know why their lawyers didn't just explain it to them. I would also like to know why their lawyers aren't in for a reaming from the court. If they KNEW the law, then as officers of the court they should have refused to have any part in the suit, and if they didn't, it was up to them as professionals to find out.

        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          As I understand it, it never got to court.
          Basically the Astrolabe lawyers threatened to sue, EFF lawyers replied and Astrolabe apologized for the mistake and backed down.

          • by sjames (1099)

            It got close enough for the EFF to threaten them with rule 11. That makes it close enough for disciplinary action.

        • Lawyers represent people. Your free to ignore a lawyer's advice, and hire them anyway to make your argument. The lawyers reputation may suffer, guilty by association type thing.

          • by sjames (1099)

            A lawyer is ALSO an officer of the court and has a duty to protect it from abuse. They can certainly give their client the benefit of the doubt and then some when representing their position, but where the law is clear, they cannot argue against it. That is why the EFF threatened rule 11 proceedings and that's why they promptly backed down when threatened.

  • Donate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:19AM (#39135611)

    Yet another reason to click on that "Donate" button on the EFF site.

    • Re:Donate (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MMC Monster (602931) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:53AM (#39136351)

      I donated for the first time when the whole SOPA thing was the pressing matter. I'll probably donate again today.

      The EFF matters. Their core beliefs match mine more so than most of the places I donate to.

      I'm a geek, and they do good for geeks. That's good enough for me.

  • Strange.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Walterk (124748) <{gro.mca} {ta} {telbud}> on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:20AM (#39135625) Homepage Journal

    that they didn't read this in their horoscope..

  • by slack_justyb (862874) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:26AM (#39135653)
    From the submitter:

    which will help protect the database from future baseless legal actions and disruptions.

    From them maybe. The current warfare of the patent/copyright system has come to a point where, even if one line of defense does not seem to work, companies are free to pursue a different course of action and see if they cannot get different results. Hence why, to many, the current system is broken. It simply is no longer being used for the reason for which it was created.

    • It simply is no longer being used for the reason for which it was created.

      We must shed the illusion that we can deliberately 'create the future of mankind'⦠This is the final conclusion of the forty years which I have now devoted to the study of these problemsâ¦

      -Friedrich Hayek

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:36AM (#39135701)
    ...that Astrolabe could not claim to hold copyright on facts such as when the sun rises. What TFA fails to state is that this is because Apples owns the patent on it.
  • by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:00AM (#39135823)

    "It's about time."

    • by MRe_nl (306212) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:11AM (#39135921)

      Sacrifice Astrolabe: Add two mana of any one color to your mana pool. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sacrifice Astrolabe: Add two mana of any one color to your mana pool. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.

        I'd tap that.

        • by snowgirl (978879)

          Sacrifice Astrolabe: Add two mana of any one color to your mana pool. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.

          I'd tap that.

          What are you using? Icy Manipulator? Clearly you can't tap the card without at least a twiddle or something...

          #toomuchmtg

      • You do know that "tapping" is a game mechanic that is patented by Wizards of the Coast? Unfortunately, I'm not joking :-(

  • Incompetence (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:03AM (#39135837)

    Both Astrolabe and (especially) their counsel were incompetent here. Counsel never even served Eggert and Olson after filing a complaint September 30th. IANAL, but I think that they had to do that by January, and I assume that that had something to do with the EFFs statement [eff.org] January 12th :

    "Today, we’re taking the battle to Astrolabe, and starting the process for seeking sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.Rule 11 requires litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and law before filing any paper with the court. Obviously, that didn’t happen here. Astrolabe now has 21 days to withdraw its Complaint. If it doesn’t do so, the Rule 11 “safe harbor” expires and we’re free to ask the court for sanctions.

    Jan 12 + 21 days is Thursday, February 2nd. I imagine that Astrolabe and their counsel dropped the suit to avoid these sanctions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Jan 12 + 21 days is Thursday, February 2nd.

      When talking about the TZ DB, you could at least make it clear if you're talking about Jan 12 UTC, Jan 12 PST or Jan 12 somewhere else.

    • by snowgirl (978879)

      Indeed, this covenant not to sue smells an awful lot like a dismissal with prejudice to me...

  • Not good enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ilsaloving (1534307) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:24AM (#39136057)

    Oh gee, thanks. They promise not to sue again. I'm sorry, but I don't accept this whole "We made a mistake" argument. If a parent sits there watching their child tap dance in the middle of a raging bonfire, "I made a mistake" isn't going to cut it. Said parent would be charged with criminal negligence.

    The company and their lawyers had an obligation to perform their due diligence. They didn't, and in the process of following their greed they turned the life of an innocent developer into a living hell and threatened a critical piece of global architecture.

    Both the company and their legal counsel should be counter-sued into a black hole.

    • by houghi (78078)

      It is nice to compare companies with parents. But parents are people and companies are not. Oh wait.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:40AM (#39136781) Homepage Journal

    If government doesn't grant a monopoly on the facts of timezones, then what incentive do astrologers have to allow timezones to exist? EFF, you people are ruining the progress of the sciences and useful arts!

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      If government doesn't grant a monopoly on the facts of timezones, then what incentive do astrologers have to allow timezones to exist? EFF, you people are ruining the progress of the sciences and useful arts!

      Absolutely. Without a financial incentive nobody will ever use a clock again.

  • Saturn moved out of Taurus.
  • by ukemike (956477) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @02:17PM (#39139497) Homepage
    In other news Astrolabe sues Little Orphan Annie for failing to pay royalties for the use of database in the song Tomorrow.

    "The sun 'll come out tomorrow! Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun...."
  • I'm going to take what might be an unpopular position here and congratulate Astrolabe for admitting they made a mistake. That's something we see far too infrequently in such cases. Yes, the suit should never have been filed, but when presented with the evidence that they were wrong, they didn't argue and try another tactic, they owned up to it, admitted they were wrong, dismissed the suit, and apologized. About the only thing more they could have done is pay all the legal costs, and without knowing anything

    • by jimshatt (1002452)
      If this would have gone to court and Astrolabe had lost (which they surely would have), wouldn't they have to pay for the legals costs anyhow?
      • Not necessarily, this is the US, it's not a loser pays system. Had they lost the EFF Rule 11 claim, they could have been forced to pay legal fees, but we don't have automatic loser pays here.

Our policy is, when in doubt, do the right thing. -- Roy L. Ash, ex-president, Litton Industries

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