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EFF Wins Protection For Time Zone Database

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-about-time dept.

The Internet 71

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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Astrolabe Needs ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39135571)

Astrolube ... 'cuz they just got screwed

Re:Astrolabe Needs ... (1)

Saintwolf (1224524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135681)

Don't you use a screwdriver for that?

Re:Astrolabe Needs ... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145651)

I think you're doing it wrong.

Re:Astrolabe Needs ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142347)

No, no "lube" means good happy fun times and giggly jiggles.

Just call them Astroslab because that's where they belong, shot into space on a big slab of their ego and greed.

whooo (5, Insightful)

starblazer (49187) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135573)

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

Re:whooo (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135595)

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.

Re:whooo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39135651)

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

Re:whooo (5, Informative)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 2 years ago | (#39141969)

Feist v. Rural [wikipedia.org] is the case you want to look at. Under that rulling the TZDB was free and clear unless the astrologers sould show a "spark" of creativity in the collection of facts. Basically, the facts themselves are not copyrightable, though the arrangement, presentation, or selection of facts may be copyrightable.

Re:whooo (5, Interesting)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:whooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39137027)

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.

 
I do not know if this actually would accomplish the task, as "facts" are under no obligation to be true. For example:
 
The Sky Is Purple, The temperature is -1 kelvin, Oasis is the greatest rock band of all time.
 
All of these are facts, but only one of them is true, and that's a fact. The insertion of bogus entries is only useful to see if your work might-have been infringed under the law of your jurisdiction.

Re:whooo (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39137167)

All of these are facts, but only one of them is true, and that's a fact.

No it isn't. By definition facts are true. The bogus data are not facts.

Re:whooo (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39137849)

All of these are facts, but only one of them is true, and that's a fact.

No it isn't. By definition facts are true. The bogus data are not facts.

No they aren't. In computer science, a fact is a data value, without any implications about the trustworthiness of the data. In general science, a fact is a verifyable observation, with no certainties about its truthfulness until said verification has been done. In law a fact is a statement which is found to be true by a trier (like a jury), which still doesn't make it true per sé. I think in philosophy a fact is actually true, but that's not my area, ask someone with a beard and Birkenstocks.

There are many false facts, they simply have a tendency to stop being facts once their falsehood becomes well known.

Re:whooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39138541)

Moron. You need a course in remedial grammar school english. They are false assertions, not "false facts". The term "false fact" is an oxymoron.

Flame Fail (4, Informative)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39138949)

While most would share your assumption that fact implies truth, and indeed the first three definitions of the word support that view, the 4th and 5th definitions clearly allow for "false facts":

factâ â[fakt]
noun

1. something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact.
2. something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact.
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.
4. something said to be true or supposed to have happened: The facts given by the witness are highly questionable.
5. Law . Often, facts. an actual or alleged event or circumstance, as distinguished from its legal effect or consequence. Compare question of fact, question of law.

In legal terms, "false facts" not only exist, they are arguably quite common in legal circles. Most defense attorneys would probably admit as much, over a pint of beer.

Re:Flame Fail (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39140485)

I remember in lower elementary school doing an exercise called "Fact or Opinion", where the point was not to figure out which of the statements were true, but to figure out which could be determined to be objectively true, as opposed to which were subjective opinion. "The earth is a cube" was a fact even though it's not true, and "The earth is awesome" was an opinion.

Of course even at age 7 or whatever it was, I understood that words had multiple meanings in different context, and in this context was different than the one where "fact" means "truth".

I wonder how the GP deals with things like the "CIA Factbook" when, in fact, not all the facts in the Factbook are true facts. The "CIA Book of Statements Which Could Be Objectively Evaluated For Truth" doesn't have the same ring.

Re:Flame Fail (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145743)

No, "the earth is a cube" is not a fact. It is a piece of incorrect information.

Re:Flame Fail (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39147635)

Re-read the GP, or a dictionary. Words in natural languages have multiple meanings. This is such a case.

Re:whooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142003)

Yes, in philosophy, for something to be considered knowledge it must actually be true (if I have a justification for and I believe that there is a chair in the next room but there is no chair, then I can't say I _knew_ there was a chair), have a justification for being true (if there is a chair there, and I did believe it, but I didn't have a rational reason for why I thought so, then I can't say I _know_ there is a chair there), and you must actually believe it (if there is a chair in the other room, and I have a justification for believing that, but I don't actually believe that there is a chair there, I can't say I _knew_ there was a chair there, because I didn't actually believe what I was professing and reasoning).

So yes, I would assume that facts are required to actually be true in philosophy because facts are considered knowledge.

Re:whooo (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39145741)

The use of the word "fact" in specialised areas like computer science or law are entirely irrelevant to its everyday meaning. If I assert that X is a fact I am by definition asserting that it is true.

A statement such as "Oasis are the greatest rock band of all time" is patently an opinion, it cannot be said to be either true or false
. A statement such as "Oasis have sold x number of records" can be verified as being either true or not. If I say "Oasis have sold exactly 10 albums in their whole career" that is not a fact, if they have in fact sold 10 million.

I think people are confusing facts with information. Information can certainly be false. If I receive the information on the news that men have landed on Mars, that does not make it true without objective verification.

Copyright trap (3, Informative)

yogidog98 (1800862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39137267)

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]

Re:Copyright trap (2)

PT_1 (2425848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39139889)

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

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

Last year Google did a similar thing to Microsoft [bbc.co.uk] - by placing meaningless entries in their database - when they suspected Bing was copying their search results.

Re:whooo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39137683)

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.

Re:whooo (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142013)

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.

Re:whooo (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142147)

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

Re:whooo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39136333)

'Copyrighted', you fucking idiot. You should feel ashamed and commit suicide.

Re:whooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39137049)

copyrighted protected?

For shame!

Re:whooo (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136901)

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 (5, Funny)

DZign (200479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135601)

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

Re:whooo (0)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136027)

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.

Re:whooo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39136133)

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

Re:whooo (3)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136969)

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.

Re:whooo (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39140309)

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.

Re:whooo (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39140393)

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

Re:whooo (1)

shibashaba (683026) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143229)

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.

Re:whooo (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143811)

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.

Re:whooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39136735)

When courts stop ruling in the trolls' favor and when companies stop settling with them due to lack of resources to fight in court.

Donate (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39135611)

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

Re:Donate (4, Interesting)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.. (4, Funny)

Walterk (124748) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135625)

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

Re:Strange.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39141785)

Hahahahahahahahahahaha! I almost shit myself when I read this!

You won this time EFF, but I'll get you next time! (5, Interesting)

slack_justyb (862874) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:You won this time EFF, but I'll get you next ti (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136047)

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

You know of course... (4, Funny)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:You know of course... (5, Funny)

Calsar (1166209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136077)

...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.

I thought Oracle owned all the Sun patents.

Re:You know of course... (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136265)

Touche... I was in such a hurry to get my joke posted that I did not even think of this. Good one!

Re:You know of course... (1)

HyperQuantum (1032422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39137231)

They also had the Star division, but they gave it to the Apache.

Re:You know of course... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136247)

It is perfectly possible for one company to own the patent on an invention, and another completely separate company to own the copyright on the data used in that invention.

Re:You know of course... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136349)

Of course: the sun is made of nothing but rounded corners.

Re:You know of course... (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39137421)

But Samsung owns the patent for the sun setting. Meaning that the sun is stuck midway in the sky, can't rise or set, and everybody loses.

I'd like to be the first to say (2)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39135823)

"It's about time."

I'd like to be the first to say (4, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:I'd like to be the first to say (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39136165)

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.

Re:I'd like to be the first to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39137693)

Not without mana you wouldn't.

Re:I'd like to be the first to say (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144643)

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

Re:I'd like to be the first to say (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144539)

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

Incompetence (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Incompetence (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39136147)

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.

Re:Incompetence (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144649)

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

Not good enough (4, Interesting)

ilsaloving (1534307) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39137215)

They almost were. That's why they're suddenly acting nice!

Re:Not good enough (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39139139)

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

There goes the incentive (4, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39136781)

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!

Re:There goes the incentive (2)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39137205)

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.

The timing of this (1)

boddhisatva (774894) | more than 2 years ago | (#39139425)

Saturn moved out of Taurus.

In Other News Astrolabe Sues Little Orphan Annie (2)

ukemike (956477) | more than 2 years ago | (#39139497)

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...."

Congratulations (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39140569)

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 about their financial status, I won't presume that they could/should have offered.

As always, thank you EFF. Great job.

Re:Congratulations (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39141615)

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?

Re:Congratulations (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39146171)

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.

Re:Congratulations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142675)

Hmm, no. They were forced to admit the "mistake", because they'd be found to be guilty of a frivolous suit, and both Astrolabe and their attorney would get punished over it.

This is the kind of thing you congratulate people by giving them a swift punch to the stomach and a kick to the balls, to remind them that they're trash and better not show their dishonest faces around the block ever again.

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