The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking a judge to sanction the lawyers for Astrolabe, who launched a frivolous copyright lawsuit against Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert. These two researchers maintained the critical Internet timezone database, which is used by servers and PCs and phones all over the world to figure out how to correctly display timestamps and local time. The lawsuit claims that Astrolabe has a copyright on the facts of what timezone is in effect in what place, and this is plainly incorrect. US law "requires litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and law before filing any paper with the court," and any such inquiry would have shown that there was no basis for a suit.
Quick background: last fall, Astrolabe, an astrology software company, sued Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert, researchers who have coordinated the development of a database of time zone information for decades. The database is an essential tool used by computers around the world to determine local time so, for example, files and email messages can organized and time-stamped accurately. Astrolabe claimed that Olson and Eggert had infringed its copyright because the database relies, in part on information in an atlas to which Astrolabe owns the rights (the ACS International Atlas).
We’ve seen a lot of bogus lawsuits over the years, but this one is a doozy. Facts are not copyrightable, which means the developers were free to use the Atlas as a source. What is more, it appears that Astrolabe knew that the database contained only facts from the Atlas – its Complaint states repeatedly that the database developers copied “information” – i.e., facts. Indeed, the case would be laughable but for the dangerous consequences: Confronted by this legal threat, and lacking the resources to defend himself, Olson promptly took the database offline, to the shock and dismay of the many users and developers who relied upon it.
Just the Facts: Lawsuit Against TimeZone Database Deserves Sanctions
CSIR-Tech is the commercial arm of the Indian government’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research; after spending ₹50 crore (about USD7.6M) pursuing more than 13,000 “bio-data patents” (patents of no real value save burnishing the credentials of the scientists whose names appear on them), they have run out of money and shut down.
Troy Hunt, proprietor of the essential Have I Been Pwned (previously) sets out the hard lessons learned through years of cataloging the human costs of breaches from companies that overcollected their customers’ data; undersecured it; and then failed to warn their customers that they were at risk.
The World Wide Web Consortium has announced that its members have until April 19 to weigh in on whether the organization should publish Encrypted Media Extensions, its DRM standard for web video, despite the fact that this would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity, from security researchers who […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]
Custom coffee vessels are the perfect piece of office flair, but it’s just a matter of time before your VOTE FOR PEDRO mug will start to lose its relevant wit. Why not have a new one every day, with whatever silly nonsense you want sticking off the sides? You can save big on your novelty […]
The Lightning port has thus far resisted the cruel fate that befell the headphone jack, and despite rumors that it may be disappearing come iPhone 8, for the present and foreseeable future, Lightning cables are a hot commodity for iPhone users. As such, we must make do in this strange time in which long, glorified […]