back to article Chaos feared after Unix time-zone database is nuked

The internet's authoritative source for time-zone data has been shut down after the volunteer programmer who maintained it was sued for copyright infringement by a maker of astrology software. David Olson, custodian of the Time Zone and Daylight Saving Time Database, said on Thursday he was retiring the FTP server he's long …

COMMENTS

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  1. bazza Silver badge
    WTF?

    Only in America...

    That is all

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No big deal

      Just choose another datasource

      --

      sent from my iPhone

      Steve

      [Surely that's what he would have said.]

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Here's another data source with GPLv2 licence

        http://www.astro.com/swisseph/swephinfo_e.htm

        Not all astrologers are tossers

        1. elderlybloke

          Not All?

          Maybe an occasional exception but no more than that.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Then he should have blocked access from the US

      And let the rest of the world carry on as normal while stuff breaks in the US. Maybe that would concentrate minds a bit.

  2. PassiveSmoking
    Mushroom

    Oh for...

    A useful resource provided as a public service by an altruistic programmer has just been wiped out by a fucking astrologist? I think the universal level of Fail just hit critical mass.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      WTF?

      Other bit. Apparently said useful resource, completely dependant on the good graces of one bloke doing his stuff for free, was relied upon by some important things.

      Can anyone say "single point of failure"? No? Oh well, that's all right then.

      Of course the ultimate Fail here is by Astrolabe themselves. I'll bet quite a bit that the usual suspects out in the merry world of hacktivist land aren't going to take this lying down and that Astrolabe's life is going to be a bit bloody miserable for quite a while.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh for

      The trouble is, if the "useful resource provided as a public service by an altruistic programmer" turns out to be based on stolen information, then the programmer wasn't being so clever after all, and all those users of the resource have been effectively handling stolen goods.

      The fact that in these parts we think higher of programmers than astrologers has nothing to do with it.

      Rather than get upset, a sensible route would be to get a license from them to use the information.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmmm

      I don't know anything about the case, but being altruistic never absolved anyone from respecting the law. And rightfully so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Stealing life

        I don't think it should actually be possible to be charged with stealing a simple description of the real world. In fact, I think it should be an offence to claim copyright on observations of fact.

        The fact that the claim comes from a professional liar and fraudster (AKA astrologer) actually should make a difference, BTW.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stealing life

          "In fact, I think it should be an offence to claim copyright on observations of fact"

          So all works of non-fiction can't be copyrighted?

          No more reference books, travel guides, programming guides? Glad you're not in charge, Robert.

          (Whilst I have no links to astrologers, I think they are best described not as liars and fraudsters, but as part of the entertainment industry, an industry which is fully of worthy stuff where you suspend disbelief and reality in order to gain some enjoyment. Taking their readings as anything more literal would be plain silly)

          1. NagChampa

            Can't claim copyright on a recipe

            As far as I understand, facts themseleves can't be copyrighted. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Trivial Pursuit got away with ripping off a book of facts for their questions for that exact reason. Cracked has an article on it http://www.cracked.com/article_18995_5-classic-board-games-with-disturbing-origin-stories_p2.html

            Similarly, recipes can't be copyrighted, as far as the ingredients and steps to create the dish go. Any flavour text, related commentary, or photographs can certainly be copyrighted, but there's nothing stopping me reproducing a recipe from a famous chef in basic terms without having to ask first or having to give any kind of acknowledgment.

        2. Ru
          Holmes

          "it should be an offence to claim copyright on observations of fact."

          Well, you can't claim copyright on basic facts (eg, my height or weight) but you can claim copyright on more detailed things (say, a biography or other work of non-fiction which contains factual information). Grabbing basic facts from a copyright work is fine, but the more complex the construct you're appropriating, the more you're likely to fall afoul of the law.

          I'd be very surprised if the astrologers succeeded in their lawsuit, but the damage has already been done.

          1. AdamWill

            the concept is....

            the 'creative step'. A biography is non-fiction, but it's a creative work; the form of words you choose to use to express a 'factual' description is not dictated by the facts you're describing.

            It's hard to see how Astrolabe is going to argue that a simple historical list of the timezones in place at a given time in a given place involves a 'creative step' at any point.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It's not a description of the natural world

          It's a compilation of political-historical data (for example, day-light saving times have been introduced at different times in different nations) which requires a lot of tedious work. It's also not a patent, it's copyright, which is very different. If the guy had done his own research and arrived at the same data there would no basis for a suit.

          A lot of ignorance in this forum...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            $deity! Such ignorance!

            Almost all of you have prejudged him, you evil gits.

            Why do any of you think there is *any* legitimate legal basis for the suit?

            Nearly all of you have just assumed that he did use the copyrighted document(s) without permission, even though you have no evidence whatsoever on which to base that assumption.

            Given that you seem to think that, I can well understand him closing up shop because if that's all the thanks he gets from you ingrates, then it really isn't worth bothering to fight the suit.

            Unless he has a lawyer who'll defend him 'pro-bono', then it would just end up costing a lot of money, distracting him from his actual paid work, maybe even losing him his job, and will get dragged out for as long as Astrolabe can possibly manage.

            Even if he wins, he still loses. So what's the point?

            As to whether or not Astrolabe actually have a case - reading the complaint, they almost certainly do not. You cannot copyright raw data, you can only copyright a particular arrangement of same. The web pages referenced in the complaint don't support their complaint either.

            You can provide data subject to a contract, and limit the purposes that data is used for via that contract, but that is contract law.

            Finally, the Astrolabe complaint requests an immediate temporary restraining order. If that was granted, Olson had no choice but to take down the site until the restraining order is lifted - even if he has chosen to fight the case.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "the ultimate Fail here is by Astrolabe themselves"

        Really? For objecting when someone steals and distributes their property?

        Just because there's some hactivists who don't respect the law doesn't mean Astrolabe are in the wrong.

        (As for the madness of architecting a single point of failure like this - regardless of legitimacy of data origin - well 'Fail' indeed on all the programmers!)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          @AC 1

          "Really? For objecting when someone steals and distributes their property?"

          There is a huge difference to be kept in mind here. The guy didn't got any financial profit from it (in fact it would probably only have /cost/ him money to maintain the server and database) and some people used his service for /years/ now.

          If that astrologer idiot was so upset then why not start doing something any civilized person would have done ? Ask the guys behind the database if they actually did use / copy or take his work and if so could fix that or contact him to discuss some kind if compensation ?

          Maybe I'm overreacting, but what I see here are civil problems being "solved" in a totally uncivilized and maybe even savage way: "We'll sue!!".

          I'm >< close to thinking that 'the art of sueing' is something every US business needs to embrace because "if done right it might even make more /money/ than doing your common dumb business."

          1. Aaron Em

            Yes, you're overreacting

            To react "in a totally uncivilized and maybe even savage way", they'd have needed to employ some sort of actual physical violence, rather than merely the process established under American law for the resolution of *civil* claims. If they'd sent thugs around with AK-47s to murder him in a hail of bullets as he stepped out onto his front porch, I'd be willing to take you serously. As it is, I think you might do well to go a bit easier on your stimulant of choice.

      3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Paris Hilton

        @AC 08:52

        It’s a pity we can only use one icon on a post because your post deserves FAIL, WTF and troll, and possibly Paris as well give the level of intelligence you are displaying, I can only assume that you are in fact an employee of Astrolabe. Astrolabe are claiming copyright on timezones!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Timezone information is "stolen" information.

        Time zones were first proposed by Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming at the International Meridian Conference in October 1884, so I think there may be some prior art. Perhaps the International Standards Organisation (ISO) should sue Astrolabe for daring to publish international time zone information.

        In fact the complaint contains this:-

        “These atlases set forth interpretations of historical time zone information pertaining to innumerable locations throughout the world, based upon the compilation of historical research and documentation regarding applicable time zones officially and/or in actuality in effect, given the actual latitude and longitudes of specific locations throughout the world”.

        “innumerable locations throughout the world” WTF, there are only 24 longitudal time zones in the world, not counting zones like BST, CET etc. And If these time zones are “officially in effect” are they not owned by whoever “officially” put then into effect?

        Astrolabe???? Wasn’t that invented by Hipparchos (c. 190 BC – c. 120 BC) the Greek astrologer, astronomer, geographer, and mathematician and founder of trigonometry. Ooohhh!!! quick, somebody from Greece sue astrolabe for using the name of a Greek invention .

        Paris, because its always Bristol time[1] with her.

        [1]The clock on the Corn Exchange in Bristol in the UK has two minute hands. The black minute hand shows GMT and the red minute hand shows Bristol time (GMT – 10mins), Bristol, rhyming slang, short version of “Bristol city” which rhymes with……..

        1. Aaron Em

          There's nothing like

          a dozen exclamation points and question marks -- in a row -- to convince all comers that your arguments are serious-minded ones which any reasonable person must offer due consideration.

          On the other hand, who am I to judge? Spending one's entire life in a state of mental adolescence is a rare and enviable privilege indeed. Well, enviable, anyway; if I could honestly call it 'rare', we'd all be a lot better off.

        2. Raumkraut

          1. You can't directly copyright facts, nor (in the US) mere collections of facts.

          2. There are more than 24 observed timezones. Numerous places are +/- 30 minutes over the hour, some +-15 minutes.

          3. Timezones also involve daylight savings obsevance information. Which is a real bugger, even when everyone agrees.

          4. Official timezones are entirely political, so the details vary over time, on the whims of governments.

        3. Chris L
          FAIL

          Someone seems to have forgotten that timezone lines aren't just straight lines going N-S on a globe. In the Pacific they are decidedly twisty adn essentially it's easier to have a location=>timezone database (which appears to be the copyright asserted by Astrolabe) than saying the fundamentally erroneous 'everyone east of foo and west of bar is in timezone X'.

          1. Jonny F
            Happy

            There are MORE than 24 observed hour timezones

            > 2. There are more than 24 observed timezones. Numerous places are +/- 30 minutes over the hour, some +-15 minutes.

            You would think there are only 24 time zones on the hour, but there are in fact more. Some places at the ends of +11+12 or -11-12 hours do not want to be +12 or -12, so they bump themselves to +13 or -13, as it were.

            My win7 PC machine knows about +13 Fuka'alofa, but there are others. Grab an atlas.

            And it doesn't matter what you think of the profession of the people who did the work. If they have a thing that was difficult to compile and is complicated and detailed, if you want it you do not steal it. License it, ask for it, go make your own, etc.

            1. veti Silver badge
              Windows

              I think your Win7 PC might mean Nuku'aLofa, which is UTC+13.

              So is New Zealand, incidentally, since daylight savings kicked in.

              And that's the only real reason this information is complicated at all. If we could just agree to forget about the daylight savings nonsense, it would take about half an hour to compile all world timezones and end this nonsense right now.

              The reason we can't is because they keep changing, at least twice a year in most places.

              Three years ago, the NZ government decided to extend its daylight savings time by three weeks. The decision wrong-footed Microsoft, who released at least three Windows patches to reflect the change - and despite being fully patched, during those three weeks, my Outlook calendar was *still* reminding me of appointments an hour late. But Unix-based systems had no such problems.

        4. Eddie Edwards
          FAIL

          There are only 24 time zones? Really? No half-hour timezones or anything then? And these have been static throughout history?

          Dude, failing to understand that a subject is complex doesn't count as insight into that subject.

      4. Rob Crawford

        Shhhh

        For those claiming some form of IP infringement.

        There is insufficient information to judge what is even being claimed never mind whether it is even vaguely valid.

        Most likely he closed the system down because he has put a lot of effort and no doubt money into this service and received nothing other than this kick in the balls.

        Most likely he can't be bothered to throw further resources into this and said fuck it.

        I wonder where Astrolube (sic) obtained their figures from and whether they can in fact claim ownership of these figures.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Linux

        Information

        At A.C. 08:52 GMT (or thereabouts).

        Are you seriously saying that the information on the Unix time-zone database is created by a bunch of astrologers? Or that they should be paid to supply the information?

        It seems to me that they are complaining that their compilation of publicly available information is being used. I'm not aware of the legal framework for such a situation but in my mind the sooner someone independent and reliable takes over the compilation work the better.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Do you think that they can foresee that happening

        or where the stars in the wrong place.

        1. MartinBZM

          Nah, the stars have shifted over time and now their predictions are based on an obsolete model and therefore invalid. As are their other assumptions about 'owning' time zone information.

      7. Charles Manning

        Votards Bah!

        As I write this there are 31 down votes. Clearly votards think that if they down-vote things enough then they can change the world, the law or whatever.

        The parent is correct. If the data was indeed lifted then that's illegal and wrong no matter how many people benefit. Well said. Let's look at the legality of the situation and not all the emotional noise.

        Reg should do away with the voting. Commentards at least have to be able to structure a coherent sentence. Votards only have to be able to click a mouse to pour out there opinions. Lowering the bar on participation does not improve the discussion.

        [Expecting a good harvest of red thumbs].

        1. Gav
          Thumb Up

          win-win scenario

          If you don't like what the votes say; ignore them. They don't affect the content of the comment in any way.

          I find the votes doubly helpful. When I agree with the votes it confirms I'm right. When I disagree with the votes it confirms that most people are wrong, and I'm still right.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh for ...

      "I think the universal level of Fail just hit critical mass"

      Nah, just another greedy tosser out for a quick buck.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Newton was also an "astrologist" you prejudiced and offensive motherfucker!

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        You are the idiot

        "Newton was also an "astrologist" you prejudiced and offensive motherfucker!"

        While we're having a go at other people, Newton was a bit of an astrologer, not much of one, but certainly wouldn't be nowadays. This is like saying people in mediaeval times were stupid because they believed in four elements.

        Anyone supporting astrology today is either a liar and a cheat, or fairly ignorant. It's obviously and convincingly of no basis at all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Tired of fundamentalism

          There are atheist talibans too... As Newton said, have you studied astrology sir? He did, in depth.

      2. elderlybloke
        Pint

        Dear AC 8th October 2011 01:18 GMT

        It is over 300 years since Newton , and science has progress a long way since then..

        If you believe in Astrology , then I class you a stupid "motherfucker".

      3. FreeTard
        Thumb Down

        AC - I read in the stars...

        ...that your a complete twat. A potty mouthed twat at that.

  3. -tim
    Pint

    Tick Tock

    I hate being clock blocked.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      be careful!!

      Someone may have copyrighted the phrase "Tick Tock"

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick
        Headmaster

        Too late

        The Time Servers at the US Naval Observatory (The US Authority) are famously named "tick" and "tock" and have been for at least 12 years.

        I know this because when Y2k came around, their moon phase calculators went willy because of Microsoft's attempt to embrace, extend and extinguish javascript. I let them know, and they replied "Thanks, Microsoft" One would think with a sailor's legendary vocabulary for such eventualities they could have done a lot better than that. Must have had visiting Flags that day. Irony lovers will note that the Vice Presidential Mansion is on the grounds of the Naval Observatory inhabited at the time by Al Gore (one last "inventor of the Internet" joke).

    2. Irp

      Tick Tock Goes The Clock,

      And All The Zones, They Merge,

      Tick Tock And ve-ry soon

      All the Zones Will Die

  4. Shannon Jacobs
    Megaphone

    More evidence American law is biased to EVIL

    Do we need any more evidence of how American law works? Does anyone remember that the ORIGINAL basis of copyrights and patents was to encourage creativity. Check the Constitution, if you're muzzy on the deal.

    In general, American laws are written by corrupt professional politicians catering to the most corrupt businessmen, precisely because the rest of the GOOD businessmen are not trying to game the system by changing the rules. Copyright is just one of the worst examples.

    I say "DEATH to Mickey Mouse!"

    1. Aaron Em

      Such utter crap

      Copyright and patent are not intended to encourage creativity; this is a modern concept, of the sort you find in a kindergarten, and wasn't thought of (nor did it need to be) by our illustrious forebears, who quite rightly valued the ingenuity and competence once characteristic of Americans far more than they did something like 'creativity' which a toddler can achieve with finger paints. Of course, after a hundred or so years of public pedagogy often administered by people not fit to earn a real living, most Americans have finger paints for brains in the first place, so I'm not surprised that people get this wrong; besides which, no one wants to admit she is a product of a degraded age, most of whose denizens would barely even be regarded by their own ancestors as human, much less as sane, healthy, and capable adults.

      Copyright and patent are intended to see to it that people who invent things can get paid. And, at least from the article, it does look as though Olson was unlawfully republishing Astrolabe's copyrighted work in the public domain, without making any sort of compensation to the copyright owner. I am no particular fan of astrology or its practitioners, but I do have some slight understanding of business, and as a business Astrolabe has every right to bring suit in these circumstances. Whether culpable infringement has actually occurred is up to a judge; I tend to suspect it won't come to much of anything unless Olson has actually been getting paid for it himself, which I doubt, but it doesn't really matter what you or I happen to think about it, because we don't work in a courtroom or a long black robe.

      If you want to get pissed off at somebody, get pissed at the asshole who allowed his database, which he had to know was partially composed of data the republication rights for which belonged to somebody else, to become such a critical resource for so many systems. Talk about your single points of failure! What the hell did he *think* was going to happen?

      1. Francis Fish
        Trollface

        Please ...

        read the post this refers to, plus the comments. And the article makes clear that the suit is ambiguous, don't call a man out who did something that benefited others unless you are willing to do something just as useful yourself.

        1. Aaron Em

          "unless you are willing to do something just as useful yourself"

          What, steal something you want? No, I'll leave that to you, thanks all the same.

          1. Blitterbug

            @Mr Em

            It's great fun watching your uber right-wing bollocks get the right kicking it deserves...

            1. Aaron Em

              Only a fool

              imagines that popularity and accuracy, or their respective converses, have anything particularly to do with one another, except by happenstance. You know what else "the wisdom of crowds" has given us? Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, that's what. Put them in your oh-so-democratic pipe and smoke it, why don't you?

            2. Jonathan Richards 1
              Go

              How many, now?

              Surely that should be "watching your uber right-wing bollocks get the right kicking THEY deserve". Unless you only want to kick his right-wing bollock, leaving the other alone. Precision kicking, well done that man.

        2. Ian Emery Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Astrology FAIL

          Of COURSE their suit is ambiguous; have you ever seen ANYYTHING written by an astrologer that wasnt???

          This suit puts a HUGE dent in Astrolabs credibility; if they were any7 good they would have filed this suit a week BEFORE he took the database information!!

          Paris, because she can rip off my particulars any day!!!

          1. AdamWill

            they didn't own it

            astrolabe only just bought the database, which is why they're suing now. The _previous_ owner clearly didn't have a problem with the tz database.

      2. Asiren
        Flame

        Oh, right...

        Blame the programmer. The man maintains a database for free, people use it for their own programming, and his database gets taken offline.

        So it becomes *his* fault that *everyone else* couldn't be arsed to pay for a proper database and therefore MADE him the single point of failure. What if he'd had a heart attack and died?? Same problem, but would you still blame him?

        It's like someone handing out free coffee on the street. He gets shut down as someone finds out he's been using the water from their garden faucet of their house for the coffee each day, and everyone else gripes that it's *his* fault they don't get free coffee in the morning any more. As supposed to going to Starbucks and buying their own mud-water.

        IT WAS A FREE SERVICE. What do you expect?

        1. Aaron Em

          "What do you expect?"

          I expect some basic sense of responsibility, I suppose, or at least the wit to understand that, as in your free coffee example, giving away something you've got no right to doesn't suddenly become okay because you're not charging money for it.

          Speaking of which, in that example, it *is* his fault they don't get free coffee in the morning any more. If he hadn't committed theft of services in order to give it to them, they'd never have had free coffee in the first place, and wouldn't be upset by its sudden absence. The thief created the untenable expectation; of *course* it's his fault that expectation is no longer satisfied! It wouldn't even exist if not for him.

          But you're right -- why bother? There's obviously no point; I must re-educate myself to understand that the true determinant of whether a law has value is whether or not it is popular. Demos is God! And that's worked out so beautifully in the UK so far, hasn't it?

          1. Rob Crawford
            Facepalm

            Chanting

            Angry Angry he's so very angry.

            although it wasn't a good example, your statements where almost totally unrelated to any known facts (of which there are very little)

            So before shouting theft why not wait until there is some real information.

            The main gist of the story is the short sighted behemoths of the IT industry who where using a free service and there appears to be no replacement.

            You aren't an employee of Astro thingie are you?

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge
            WTF?

            What gives you the right to be judge and jury, Aaron Em?

            You have no evidence whatsoever, and you're not a lawyer.

            I've read the complaint and it looks like utter bollocks to me.

            The references in the complaint don't say what Astrolabe claim they say, and they appear to be claiming that they hold the copyright on all forms of timezone data, which is impossible because timezones are defined by public domain information - in the US, that's even written in statute.

            You can only copyright a particular publication of public domain information - I can publish my own set of timezone data and hold copyright of that particular way of showing them, but that does not stop anyone else from publishing that same data in a different way.

            Even though the contained data is ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL, because both of us live on the same planet.

            Of course, I'm not a lawyer either.

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Umm, I think the modern concept is the idea that creativity is something that children do with finger paints and the illustrious forebears you refer to would have had no trouble with the OP's statement.

        The two of you seem to be in agreement on substance and differing only in the choice of language.

        And with regard to your final paragraph, I think the "jury's still out" on whether the complaint is valid and we shall see in the next few days whether the database actually is a single point of failure or whether, in fact, it has been replicated across the world.

      4. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        FAIL

        @Aaron Em, such utter crap

        "Copyright and patent are intended to see to it that people who invent things can get paid. And, at least from the article, it does look as though Olson was unlawfully republishing Astrolabe's copyrighted work in the public domain,"

        So are you saying Astrolabe invented timezones or own the copyright on timezones? Such utter crap.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >"Copyright and patent are intended to see to it that people who invent things can get paid."

        Wow, what a load of historically-ignorant wish-fulfillment garbage you wrote there. Copyright was not intended to "see to it" that people get paid; it was intended, in the US at any rate, "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." In the UK its original purpose was "the Encouragement of Learning". Nothing to do with the quick-buck-mentality-ayn-randist-wank-fantasy you have proposed.

        1. Rob Crawford

          Really?

          it's is NOT to permit an originator of a product have the exclusive rights to manufacture and exploit it for a given period?

          The process had to be disclosed

          1: so the other 'innovators' could confirm that they didn't infringe an existing product

          2: to prevent spurious claims of infringement by an existing patent holder (ie your new washing machine uses the same method as my old design, even though I do not detail how my washing machine works)

          3: Vague patent claims which contain vague wording and objectives

          Oh well looks like they have failed on all three points then.

          The effects company Z-Vex resorted to hand painted enclosures because any body bootlegging their product could be prosecuted as art forgeries under international treaties. Apparently it's too hard to copyright a circuit (though almost all amplifier circuits are cribbed from 1930's RCA technical notes anyway)

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            @Rob Crawford 11:40

            Please can we distinguish between patents, which you are discussing here, and copyrights, which are the subject of the suit between Astrolabe and Olson?

            Kthanxbai.

        2. david wilson

          >>"Copyright was not intended to "see to it" that people get paid; it was intended, in the US at any rate, "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." In the UK its original purpose was "the Encouragement of Learning". Nothing to do with the quick-buck-mentality-ayn-randist-wank-fantasy you have proposed."

          Speaking as a definite non-fan of Rand, surely a lot comes down to what perspective you look at it from?

          Allowing people to control (and profit from) their works is a fairly good incentive for people to create things in the first place and make them available to the public in the second place.

          Copyright/patents might have an ultimate goal of increasing the amount of stuff that's invented and publicised, but surely a primary means by which they hope to achieve that goal is making it possible to be a professional creator, or more rewarding to be a creator in general.

          And that's leaving aside any moral argument as to whether creators /deserve/ to get paid.

          If people think they do deserve that, then one ultimate goal of copyright/patent law really /is/ to see that they get paid

      6. JimC

        Encourage Creativity...

        Lots of bizarre logic chopping here as usual on this topic... I think the point is that copyright was intended to encourage creativity *by ensuring that creators get paid*.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Hurrah!

          Well said that man.

      7. steward
        Boffin

        Maybe you should have read the Constitution in kindergarten

        Or at least before you posted your highly inaccurate polemic on US Constitutional law.

        "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;" (Art. I, section 8, US Constitution)

        If you can't figure out that the "progress of science and useful arts" is "creativity", you should back away from the keyboard. Permanently.

        1. Aaron Em

          Kindergarten, eh?

          Sounds like about your level of understanding. You do know that the Constitution isn't the only law of the land, yes? And you do know that proof-texting in the complete and deliberate ignorance of any sort of context, as with a Southern Baptist preacher working to prove a point to his flock, isn't generally accepted as the dominant tradition of American legal interpretation, yes? Because you don't show any evidence of either.

          But somehow you're more to be trusted with a keyboard than I am. Are Fisher-Price making "My First Computer" toys with real Ethernet jacks now, or what?

      8. unitron
        Headmaster

        Some concepts are more modern than others...

        "Copyright and patent are not intended to encourage creativity; this is a modern concept, of the sort you find in a kindergarten, and wasn't thought of (nor did it need to be) by our illustrious forebears, who quite rightly valued the ingenuity and competence once characteristic of Americans far more than they did something like 'creativity' which a toddler can achieve with finger paints."

        Here, let me google Wikipedia for you.

        Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress:

        “ To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. ”

        It's only been in there since 1787.

        "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts..."

        That's 18th Century-speak for "...encourage creativity..."

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Coat

    Astrolabe will be the big loser here

    Didn't they see this in the stars?

    Coat?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Keyboard, eat hot, er,.... tea!

  6. Roadkill

    Dear Astrolabe

    "I hereby call on the industry leaders to help sort this out,” Colebourne wrote. “IBM, Oracle, Apple, Google, RedHat I'm looking at you."

    ...you called down the thunder, now reap the whirlwind.

  7. jake Silver badge

    Pardon me whilst I ...

    ... put a copyright, trademark & patent on the movement of all the bits & pieces that make up the observable Universe (1).

    With a rider that includes all the bits that we can't observe (yet).

    The US patent office and attendant set of rules & regulations is completely corrupt & needs revamping.

    (1) Including aircraft, ships, trains, and auto/truck/cycle/skate/ski et ali transport, of course, which have a hell of a lot more of an effect on people day to day than anything astrology related ... including the effect of their gravitational attraction.

    1. Tommy Pock

      Sorry, I claim prior art. The universe and everything in it and everything which will be in it is already in the public domain. The future, of course, is an abstract concept of time which already exists, so is also covered.

  8. Yes Me Silver badge
    WTF?

    timeanddate.com

    Let's hope that http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/ is unaffected by this troll attack.

    1. T.a.f.T.
      FAIL

      Don't give them a URL! It took decades before the stars spelt out the one for the tz!

  9. Wombling_Free
    Mushroom

    Infringement of patents claim.

    Dear Mr. Astrolabe.

    We represent the patent holder for 'system of lung-based oxygen respiration', 'system of ATP-based organic cellular energy storage and conversion', 'system of musculature to maintain breathing'.

    You have been found to be using these technologies without the appropriate royalty fees, and thus you are ordered to CEASE AND DESIST IMMEDIATELY any use of these technologies.

    It is noted that you have not paid the royalties for 'system of neuron-based reasoning and intelligence' however we can find no evidence you have used that technology, based on the fact that you claim to be an Astrologer.

    Yours, with much malice & hatred,

    Troll, Camp, Snipe & Bastard, Lawyers.

  10. David Gosnell
    Joke

    Well who'd have predicted that?

    Eh?

  11. Gert Selkobi
    Mushroom

    FFS

    Shoot the lawyers.

    If there were ever a worthy target for the likes of Anonymous and the like then here it is. Both Astrolabe and the trolling lawyers who have brought this about.

    As was said above, let them suffer for their actions.

  12. Big Al
    Mushroom

    FoxClocks

    The excellent FoxClocks addon for Firefox also uses (used?) this resource, too :(

    1. Naughtyhorse

      reasoning and intelligence

      from a crowd of fucking table thumpers.....

      dont think so

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely...

    Some organisation outside of the US can pick this up within a few days and get it up and running again?

  14. SteveK

    As I doubt a bunch of constellation-botherers came up with timezones, surely there is prior art? OK, perhaps a chunk of information was copied from their book which was a bit naughty, but that can just be re-created from other sources - probably the same places they got their information from in the first place?

    Steve.

  15. Rolf Howarth

    The size or nature of the participants in the case should have no bearing on the outcome. Imagine it was the other way round and an individual had compiled some data through lots of hard work and then some organisation like Apple or Google came along and decided to appropriate it for their purposes, claiming it was for the public good. Everyone's sympathies would be with the original developer.

    Really, we need a lot more details on the claim before we can pass any sort of judgment.

  16. Majid

    A patent on time..

    Darn why didn't I think of that...

  17. DogTrack

    Relax!

    IANA has a plan

    http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-lear-iana-timezone-database-02.html

    I don't blame him for folding the service. He was already planning to retire, has run the service for free which many commercial companies have used extensively for commercial purposes, and he probably doesn't want the hassle of a long complicated court case when he could just turn it off and retire. It was his announcement of retirement which led to the IANA plan.

    It is the likes on Red at who should look to back him at this time... if help is wanted.

  18. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Now astronomers have one more reason to detest astrology

    only lawyers will benefit from this.

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      It's a description of time zones FFS! Historical, governmental supplied, dry data.

      It's similar to a math textbook publisher suing you for using the algorithm for multiplication of two numbers or a chemical textbook and using the atomic numbers provided there for mol calculations.

      They didn't invent it, they didn't observe it, they just cataloged it and sold the catalog. The guy bought the catalog and (possibly, probably) used it to set few historical values only.

      The guy was showing the world "this is a good source material, if you want more info, look there". Now they're suing him for this.

      It's FAIL so gigantic that only lawyers can come up with.

      1. Eddie Edwards
        Facepalm

        The point is - and this is so mind-numbingly obvious I'm surprised it didn't occur to your keyboard as you typed that - if all the source material ends up in the database no one will need to buy the book.

        What it's actually similar to is the postcode database, or Google Earth's images, or the Ordnance Survey's maps, all of which are well-known to be subject to copyright.

        1. Tomato42 Silver badge
          Stop

          @Eddie and AC

          From what we know, he didn't copy it whole, only used part of the tables.

          Using Google's Earth's or Ordnance Survey's maps is copying the data verbatim. Using it to calculate (and then publish) how long is this and that street, or how far is city A from city B doesn't break the copyright.

          If the guy copied (which I seriously doubt) most of his data from the astrology books, then yes, he could be guilty of copyright infringement.

          You still have to remember that he didn't publish the astrologers data verbatim, not in whole and he did convert it from dead trees, human-readable format to format not understandable even to vast majority of techs, let alone general population.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Pardon?

            So it's all right if a burglar breaks into your house and steals your CD collection but uses only some of them. How much must one use before it becomes a problem?

            I would have thought that one should expect to get permission and be prepared to pay before using the results of someone else's work, unless they say, explicitly, that this is not necessary. All work is based on something else, usually that was free at some point. How many of you would be happy not to be paid for any work you do, on the basis that it is not original or was easy to do or whatever other foolish excuse is mooted on this site?

            To reiterate the other interesting concern of contributors: hardly believable that a large proportion of internet users, including some serious applications, has been relying on an unpaid volunteer on his own, presumably not especially reliable hardware, in his spare bedroom or somewhere. What if he got hit by a bus, when he gets too old, bored, ill, busy or broke? Sometimes the organisation of the internet seems too bizarre to be fiction, worryingly so. Is it not time we all grew up and relearnt the old lesson - no such thing as a free lunch.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge
              FAIL

              Copyright infringement is NOT theft.

              There's a clue in the name of the (civil or criminal) offence.

              Theft means depriving the rightful owner of the article in question.

              Copyright Infringement means making a copy of something without permission - the original is untouched.

              If you want to use the 'burglar' comparison, imagine a miscreant who parks outside your house and somehow manages to make a duplicate copy of everything of your CD collection magically appear inside his van.

              At no point does he enter your house, and all your stuff is still exactly where you left it.

              That's copyright infringement.

              The legal 'monetary damage' from copyright infringement comes from the idea that the miscreant might then sell the copies he made to entities who might have otherwise purchased them from you, depriving you of possible income.

              The sooner you understand the basic concepts the better, so I'll repeat it:

              Copyright Infringement is *not* theft.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Tomato42

        If this information is so easy to get hold of then the guy who hosted the database wouldn't have had to go to any trouble in order to compile his own list.

        It appears that he did think it was too much trouble, so got his data from a database/table that someone else had compiled.

        Either the data are trivial to get hold of, or they're not. This is very much like the people who run their Pub Quizes based on questions in Trivial Persuit (etc) they could have made up the same questions themselves, but they didn't, they just took someone else's without asking or paying for their work.

        It's also not simple data, as people have pointed out above, many countries have wierd and wonderful timezones and they change them from year to year, so it's dynamic and needs to be maintained.

        I am also wondering why IBM, Red Hat, HP, Sun et al don't supply their own list, especially if this data is so easy to get hold of, MS seem to manage to do so.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ahem...

      MS seem to manage their own list.

    3. AdamWill

      sigh

      Please get your legal concepts straight. 'Prior art' is a concept from patent law. Has nothing to do with a copyright suit.

  19. T.a.f.T.
    Facepalm

    TDP

    The second link to TDP contains a statment that would surly be enough to throw out the case on day one?

    "First, copyright law does not protect strictly-factual information. The Copyright Act only protects the expression of facts. 17 USC 102(b) clearly states:

    In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

    Some grid co-ordinates and dates are facts & where did the atlas get these facts from in the first place? Is there a citation in the book? Wonder if Google books will let me read the copywrite & reference pages for free...

  20. Dixx
    FAIL

    Play nice FFS

    Can't you just stick a google ad on the site and send the proceeds to the "aggrieved" party? World of astrology meets world of practicality.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err...

      And how does a google ad work on an FTP database?

  21. Dave Bell

    Just how significant it this?

    When I've installed an OS, it's always asked me which time zone I'm in. It's sometimes made a suggestion (which was correct) but it's never been completely automatic.

    Was this really so vital a service?

    1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

      I think you might be missing the point

      It's not a database of what time zone Dave Bell happens to be in at this moment.

    2. David Cantrell
      Boffin

      Yes, it's vital. Quickly, answer these questions: at 1969-11-11Z01:00, what was the local time in London? And in Moscow? And in Hobart? And when it's 2012-03-15 04:00 in London what will the local time be in Maine and in Arizona?

      1. Philip Lewis
        Headmaster

        Yup, now we're cooking

        Speaking as someone who is responsible for a system that validates relative time values from every part of the globe, to the tune of 200+ million calculations a day currently, I can attest to the fact that this is a non-trival problem to solve. Mainly because it is a political problem open to local whims. TZs are neither static nor standardised - they never have been.

        I commend the biography of Sir Sandford Flemming "Time Lord" by Clarke Blaise for those interested in an interesting yarn, and the history of how and why TZs all came into being and the players in the process.

        We PAY with cold hard cash for the base time zone information. In our case we only have the data from when we started paying, about 5 years ago. I looked specifically into obtaining data from the net, however at the time (pun intended) there seemed to be no real authoritative and reliable source. Despite the fact that we are in fact the world's largest "scraper" of data from the internet, I chose NOT to source the information that way as the internet is a fundamentally unreliable beast and as many people are finding out, just because it's "free on the net", doesn't make it a reliable or even remotely accurate source.

        philip

        1. AdamWill

          whut?

          "however at the time (pun intended) there seemed to be no real authoritative and reliable source"

          tzdata has been the authoritative source used by just about every OS and web app I've seen for years (anything that has America/White Horse, for e.g., is almost certainly using tzdata), so I'm not sure where you got that idea. Can't think of any other database that's close to the prevalence tzdata has.

    3. Ian Morrison

      Erm. Well. An overly simplified example is called for here. Air traffic control. All systems are hooked up to centralised time servers. If the time source that various towers around the world use were to fail and clocks slipped by even a few seconds. I imagine people would die.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        @ Ian Morrison - You've not understood

        This is the information regarding the presentation of local time on the systems, and has absolutely nothing to do with reference times such as UTC. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) is exactly that. A Universal time.

        Almost all data that crosses national boundaries, including financial transactions and air-traffic control information are measured in UTC or it's close cousin GMT (or Zulu as it is known in military circles). Thus, this database will have no effect whatsoever on whether planes will fall out of the sky.

        This database says what the offset from UTC a particular location in the world works to, and when Daylight Saving Time is going to be applied. It also documents when national governments have changed and will change the rules for DST, and when countries have changed and will change timezone (I love the comments about Dublin Standard Time at the beginning of the 20th century being 22 minutes and a number of seconds behind London, and the confusion about when the Irish government decided to shift to GMT/BST at the same time as also altering when DST cut in. Apparently, the Irish people were very, very confused).

        Consequently, for almost all computer systems that use copies of this database, a lack of updates will make almost no difference whatsoever.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Air Traffic Control

        Runs on GMT, just so that they don't have to care about the multitude of time zones a long distance flight goes through.

    4. AdamWill

      where do you think..

      ...the OS gets the list of time zones for you to pick from, then?

  22. Aaron Em

    Wouldn't have happened that way with Windows

    Microsoft have evil lawyers of their own, who file their teeth to points and eat Boston astrologists for a midnight snack.

  23. sandman
    Unhappy

    Slightly gobsmacked

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but are we saying that UNIX timekeeping for most of the known world depended on a couple of volunteers doing it out of the goodness of their hearts? Why, when this lawsuite came to life didn't some of the big beasts offer to act as proxy and fight the legal case for the poor sods, saving them the money and hassle? All those years working for the public good just binned - very sad and not likely to encourage open source altruism...

  24. MyHeadIsSpinning

    Wouldn't it be a good idea if...

    ...aforementioned industry leaders bought out David Olson's database and hired him, then defended their new property against trolls?

    These industry leaders could even work as a group to do this.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      What data has been copied

      From what I gather the objection is to the inclusion of certain historic data. A century ago different cities often had their own clocks that depended on their longitude and could be, say, 35 minutes out from the next big city. This sort of data has been collected by the astrologers since, to them, the exact time of your birth is important.

      What I find odd is that the first thing that David Olson knew of it was a court order. Any reasonable person would have sent a letter first before taking action. This suggests that Astrolabe are either after extracting loads of money from *NIX people or that it is another MS initiative designed to nobble the opposition.

      1. Dodgy Pilot

        "What I find odd is that the first thing that David Olson knew of it was a court order. Any reasonable person would have sent a letter first before taking action."

        Indeed. I understand that under both UK and US law, this is a requirement. Judges have been known to throw cases out when this first (common sense) step is omitted.

      2. paulc
        Flame

        AstroLabe.com...

        are tossers... they bought the copyright to the atlas and then launched the suit...

        1. Peter Johnstone

          @paulc

          Yeah, I read that as well yesterday. There seems to be a lot of that going on.

          A dam cheek if you ask me; Buy a patent then sue some although it was you that put the hard work in to inventing the thing in the first place. I think this practice is getting out of control and needs some serious limitations.

      3. Peter Simpson 1
        Coat

        Astrolabe is the new "owner"

        Apparently, Astrolabe purchased the distribution rights to the database from the original developer ACS, in 2008. This may be a case of new eyes seeing an opportunity to raise some easy money. Or, perhaps a previously agreed arrangement between the Unix tz folks and ACS has changed in some way with the change in distribution rights.

        As the previous poster noted, the concern seems to be with the use of historical time zone information (which seems to be Astrolabe/ACS main product), some of which is claimed to have been derived from the ACS database. Obviously, current time zone information *is* public domain, as should be the history information, if you can show you've just been keeping records of publicly announced changes. The question seems to be whether use of historical data derived from an acknowledged third party source is fair use. And we don't know how much and for what purpose the ACS data was used...all we know is that they are acknowledged and listed as a reference.

        We should probably not speculate as to whether the hand of Microsoft is in any way involved :-)

        //did I leave my watch in my other coat?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      UNIX "timekeeping" does not depend on this

      UNIX keeps time by counting the seconds (excluding leap seconds) since the start of 1970, UTC. This is totally unaffected by time zones or by summer time. It's really only for displaying a time to a user that you need to know the offset between UTC and the local time in Paris on 29 October 1985, say.

    3. El Andy
      Alert

      Altruism?

      Yeah, turns out that all those companies aren't in it for the good of humanity after all. Anyone even remotely surprised at that needs to grow up and learn how the real world works.

      Pretty sure all the big UNIX vendors are too busy now trying to figure out what their liability might be if it turns out they have in fact been shipping copyrighted data as part of their OS.

    4. AdamWill
      WTF?

      "Correct me if I'm wrong, but are we saying that UNIX timekeeping for most of the known world depended on a couple of volunteers doing it out of the goodness of their hearts?"

      Yes. The database was there, and known to be good, so everyone uses it. It's not like it would be very hard to come up with an alternative if it ever became necessary.

      "Why, when this lawsuite came to life didn't some of the big beasts offer to act as proxy and fight the legal case for the poor sods, saving them the money and hassle?"

      You might want to give them, say, a working day or two. This story came out *yesterday*. It is, as you may have failed to notice, a weekend.

  25. Velv Silver badge
    Linux

    time.windows.com

    Yes,yes, I know the information is more than a time server. But I'd love the irony if this is where the unix bods had to go

  26. Anon E Mus
    Trollface

    To /b/

    Seems like a good time to summon the hordes. Whatever time it is now.

  27. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    WTF?

    “A good complaint would answer these questions.”

    Gee you think?

    This is not patent law and thus somewhat useful and restricted in scope (doesn't mean I have my doubt about its actual societal usefulness though.)

    I predict this list will be back in a week.

  28. SMabille
    WTF?

    Doh

    I make watches, so I own the time?? Anybody using 12.00am-11.59pm own me money.

    It's time someone gain some XP points slashing (patents) trolls.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One can only hope ...

    ... that the solution to this problem goes back to original sources for the data and then sues Astrolabe over its ACS Atlas "under the same incomprehensible glactic copyright laws" (to misquote Mr. Adams).

    At the very least I hope that no financial gain acrues to Astrolabe over any future solution.

  30. Apocalypse Later

    These people...

    ...won't give you the time of day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I doubt it.

      Not your personal army, etc., etc.

  31. Aaron Em
    Flame

    Flamebait ahoy

    Most of the comments here are completely fucking stupid.

    No, I can't copyright the movements of the sun, stars, et cetera. But if I put work into determining those movements and writing them down, I absolutely can copyright that work and sell it, thus receiving remuneration for my efforts. To do so doesn't imply that I own the source of the data, only the data itself and the form in which it's published. Arguing otherwise is like arguing that the copyright on an anatomy textbook means the author owns your skeleton, and I see several people arguing exactly that point in here, just as though they shouldn't be ashamed to show their faces in public.

    Look, comrades, I understand that "information wants to be free" and you're all indoctrinated to believe we'd all be better off without any structure of laws to govern the interaction between human beings, who of course in a natural state would never *dream* of raping, burgling, or murdering one another absent some degrading influence or other. (Rousseau was a propagandist, kiddies. If you think his "noble savage" nonsense is such a hot idea, why don't you try it out on a band of hungry chimps?) It's one thing to want to smash the nomos, the governing system of laws and obligations, and that's fair enough. Granted, should you ever bring it to the point of outright rebellion, I'll be shooting at you from atop the barricades erected around the surviving remnants of civilization, but fine, I can understand a wrecker even if I do think every last one of them ought to be shot at dawn. But don't be stupid enough to imagine the nomos smashed just because you want it that way. Break the laws you disagree with if it means that much to you -- but be prepared to deal with the consequences once your lawbreaking is uncovered. To do otherwise is to step into the path of an oncoming bulldozer, secure in the belief that it will simply cease to exist at your righteous command. And we all know what happened to Rachel Corrie, don't we?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > And we all know what happened to Rachel Corrie, don't we?

      Yes. She was killed by an Israeli armoured bulldozer whilst acting as a human shield. She was trying to prevent the IDF from demolishing Palestinian homes in contravention of article 53 of the Geneva convention.

      She died trying to prevent a crime. Bad example fuckwit.

      1. Aaron Em

        I carry no water for Israel

        As far as I'm concerned, we in the US ought to disentangle ourselves and let the two tribes fight it out to a finish. That aside, though, and however holy her aspirations, what Rachel Corrie did was to walk out in front of a bulldozer, expecting that the righteousness of her cause would force it to a stop. Unfortunately, righteousness alone was not equal to the task, and the bulldozer won quite handily. I suggest merely that this is a salutary example for anyone who considers taking a similar action.

        1. AdamWill
          FAIL

          sigh.

          "That aside, though, and however holy her aspirations, what Rachel Corrie did was to walk out in front of a bulldozer, expecting that the righteousness of her cause would force it to a stop. Unfortunately, righteousness alone was not equal to the task"

          Well, no, what she expected was that _basic humanity_ would force it to a stop, i.e., the basic humanity of 'you don't run over an unarmed person with a fucking bulldozer for the sake of building a house'.

          Apparently the moral calculus failed in this case, but I think most of us would expect most reasonable people to come to the same conclusion.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      TFFT

      "No, I can't copyright the movements of the sun, stars, et cetera. But if I put work into determining those movements and writing them down, I absolutely can copyright that work and sell it, thus receiving remuneration for my efforts".

      At least someone understands the Copyright issue here.

      Olson seems to have admitted using data from Astrolabe in acknowledging them as a source for some of the data in his database.

      If Astrolabe's work which was used is entitled to Copyright protection (and as argued above it most likely would be) and that data was copied in a manner which was not authorised by Astrolabe then it is indeed a breach of Copyright, plain and simple.

      1. Rob Crawford

        Depends

        Where Astrolubes collated from publicly available sources?

        If so then it's going to be hard to copyright a collection of public data as your own.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who owns facts?

      If this were true, then many historical authors could be sued for 'referencing' the works of other people. Can you imagine only one book that was allowed to detail T. Jefferson's children born from slaves unless everyone else paid a royalty? From the limited information in the filing and this article, it seems this guy used data. Where did Astrolabe get its data? I'm seriously doubting that Astrolabe went around and collected this data on their own over the centuries. His use of the data in no way restrains them from making money in the make believe. By this line of reasoning, if I use decay rates published in a physics reference book to write software showing how much shielding would be required to protect a troll from radioactive material, then I'd be violating copyright. Those facts would remain, regardless as to whether this company existed or not.

      1. Aaron Em

        Blithering ignorance

        never can tell when it's in over its head.

        If you merely use the decay rates, thus referring to the reference in the way it's designed and published to be used, you're fine. If you republish the information precisely as it was presented in the reference book, thus plagiarizing the work of whoever wrote and published that volume, then you're in violation of copyright.

        As mentioned in the article, it's impossible to tell precisely what Astrolabe is contending from the text of their complaint. Either they believe the database included copyrighted material from one of their publications, or they're trying to sneak something past a judge in order to extract a huge settlement from somebody who's almost certainly too broke to pay what they'll be asking when you consider all the use that's been made of that database; the latter would be arrant stupidity, which is not generally regarded by reasonable people as a trait of successful businesses, but I grant the possibility. (I also grant that most people who presently regard themselves as "reasonable people" assume that arrant stupidity is a necessary trait of *any* successful business. This says more about them than it does about industry.)

        In either case, though, the argument doesn't change the nature of copyright.

        1. Rob Crawford

          @Mr Aaron Halfspace (sorry my publishing employment got the better of me)

          You are the one who has been shouting about theft and how bad the timezone guy was for stealing this data.

          Then you finally decide to concede that there is NOT enough information to form a judgement as to what may or may not have happened.

          Please make up your mind.

          For all we know he may have used that database to cross check the values which he collated separately, we simply DO NOT KNOW

          As for stupidity, well a belief in astrology covers that base pretty fucking well (well I could be charitable and use the term delusional)

          Should Astrolabe not believe in astrology then my opinion would swing towards my belief that are at best charlatans if not worse and would trust any statement they make

          1. Aaron Em

            An em is a half space? (I just prefer it over a simple initial)

            I haven't made all that much in the way of claims that Astrolabe is right to bring suit; the closest I came, in a comment I made around 5am local, was that it looked from the article like they had a point; on further consideration, and in a comment posted something like six hours later, I weakened that claim to "there's no telling" because, in fact, right now there isn't.

            This could be self-contradiction as a result of fundamental incoherence, or it could be a sign of a point of view that's evolved to encompass newly appreciated information. I wouldn't dream of trying to suggest to you which option you should prefer.

            As for stupidity, your snide Dawkinsesque triumphalism is charming. (Especially if, as with most Dawkinsites, you consider yourself a progressive -- in which case you may not be a deist, but you are most certainly a religionist, and no less beholden than anyone else to the kind of faith-based distortion you claim so to despise.)

            Leaving that entirely respectable habit aside for a moment, though, I'd note that, just like P. T. Barnum, I see nothing particularly wrong with taking advantage of people's self-delusive tendencies; people who delude themselves on a given subject have just as much right to decide what they'll do with their money as people who don't, and perhaps those who do will learn something from the eventual realization that they've been wasting their money, effort, and time on nonsense. You're certainly not going to stop them any other way. (Someone with a sense of genuine compassion might, but I've yet to encounter the Dawkinsite who is troubled by one of those.)

            1. Rob Crawford
              Angel

              Indeed it's a half space (one of my favourite characters)

              When I have some shift of viewpoint, I usually point out that shift myself, partially for clarity, partially to help others who had the same opinion as I previously had and to let folks know that I haven't forgotten to take my medication.

              A Dawkinesque triumphalism and a religionists, fraid not, more James Randi I'm afraid (though Steve Jones is more my cup of tea than Dawkins) and more feet of clay than progressive (I need evidence to change my mind)

              So what wrong with being a rationalist, look at the evidence and decide accordingly (many if us try to do that)

              Why labour the point?

              Well you where shouting theft and getting more shouty, pointing to lack of evidence wasn't changing your intended course.

              If it wasn't for the Dawkinesque types you seem to have contempt for even more people would opt for thieves like psychic surgeons and liars like mediums rather than valid treatments.

              Fine so you think its fine for parents to subject their children to chelation as an autism cure because their parents are 'fools' is OK.

              If that's the case then I'm afraid you either have issues or you are showing off, if its the latter then you really are being very silly. Either way you should think before typing.

              1. Arthur Dent
                FAIL

                @Rob Crawford

                Anyone who thinks a mutton is a half space clearly hasn't a clue about typography. Sometimes a nut (half a mutton) is called a half space, but a mutton is never called a half-space.

                Is the rest of your twaddle as inaccurate as your assertion that "em" means half space?

                1. Rob Crawford

                  <sigh>

                  You are correct on the em, 17 years away from the text mark up systems we used both mis-defined the em as a half space (the suppliers appeared to have a somewhat incestious relationship) It wasn't till your post that the term 'Oh Bugger' floated to the front of my mind

                  En would have been bit more appropriate (the term mutton I have only encountered on Wikipedia) sadly his surname wasn't En though

                  Referring to "Is the rest of your twaddle" gives me a bad feeling that there is a logical fallacy is in the offing (wrong about em therefore wrong about ....) which will it be?

                  So

                  Is it the bit about correcting ones incorrect statements (I really do admit my mistakes)

                  Folk shouting THEFT! where no evidence currently exists

                  My low opinion of psychic surgeons, astrologers and their ilk?

                  The need to protect the foolish, ignorant & those grasping at straws

                  Go on have a look at the article and see if there's enough real info to form a valid opinion or reason to shout THEFT!

  32. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Over-reaction

    The way the document is written makes it look like all time services in the UNIX world will stop.

    Well, that ain't going to happen.

    Every UNIX system that uses this source (and it is not all UNIXs, even in this world of reduced choice) will have their own copy of the database. This copy will not evaporate. It's still good for at least the next year, end even it it were not, the rules for almost everywhere in the world are not likely to change in a hurry, so would work fine for 99% of the world without further updates.

    Even if every UNIX-like system in the world were to be forced to delete the data in this database, the older SVR2 TZ rules still work, so it is possible to code your own daylight saving time and offset rules.

    UNIX and UNIX-like systems should always have their main clock running UTC (almost the same as GMT), and these rules contain information about what offset the local time is from UTC, and when daylight-saving time kicks in and out. this database automates this. But the older methods still work.

  33. Duffaboy
    Happy

    I wonder

    What Starsign he is

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't this sort of information

    be taken from government-sanctioned scientific authorities, not astrology publishers?

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      historical data is easier to acquire this way

  35. nsld
    FAIL

    The complaint seems to be based on the fact that the Atlas is referenced as a source of information, all they need to do is remove the references as its unlikely they use the code from an Astrology program.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LOL "historical information taken from the The ACS Atlas" I don't think so.

    >"Paul Eggert, who also includes historical information taken from the The ACS Atlas in separate time-zone resource."

    What. The. Fuck?

    Did they actually check what that link (http://cs.ucla.edu/~eggert/tz/tz-art.htm) points to before issuing suit? Atlases do not usually include a discography nor references to "The Adventures of Superman" and "Dilbert".

    Eggert's other page includes a link to Olson's database, but no actual copy of the data, it's a reference page full of links to time-related matters. No wonder he hasn't taken either of his pages down; Astrolabe don't have a leg to stand on in relation to him.

  37. Whitter
    Flame

    Comentards FAIL

    Copyright != patent.

  38. Purlieu

    Irony

    I just hope that Astrolabe's website refers to the Olson databse

  39. Barracoder
    FAIL

    Seriously, you Unix guys crack me up

    Are you seriously saying a time server that's critical to the performance of your OS was running on some guy's home FTP server?

    And that not one of you, ever, thought this was a bad idea?

    Not one of you had the foresight to check that the guy holding your balls hadn't nicked half his data from a commercial database?

    If you were working for me I'd fire the hell out of your incompetent asses.

    72point AllCaps Fail.

  40. JimC

    So reassemble the data...

    If the data has been borrowed/ripped off/whatever from a company that spent a lot of time and effort compiling it then that's surely a bad thing.

    The cure seems obvious: the masses/group/assembled multitude or whatever buzz phrase you want to use simply need to go back to the primary sources and recreate the data independantly in the same way the astrology company did, then problem solved. If on the other hand that's shed loads of effort and no-one wants to do it, then doesn't that mean the litigants have a point?

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Stop

      Nobody's saying that

      Calm down.

      You must be in management.

      The tz data is for covenience, not critical to system operation. And the guy who's been compiling the data has already made arrangements for IETF to take over maintaining the database.

      He hasn't nicked half his data from a commercial database. He didn't need to. It's published. And the historical data generates itself if you keep at it for long enough.

      Now, he may have gone to a (or many) commercial databases to *check* his data, And he may have acknowledged his sources. And one of his sources may have been sold a bill of goods by a lawyer who thought they'd found a way to make lots of money with minimal effort.

  41. Armando 123

    Better be careful

    Their business is based on psuedo-scientific claptrap and ridiculous lies. Expect all religions and political organizations to sue THEM now.

  42. Juillen 1

    Come on...

    The 'Atlas' contains a set of fact. Exact reproduction of these facts in the same format would breach copyright (i.e. taking sentence extracts, and re-publishing diagrams etc.).

    The company did not originate these facts, so would have pulled them from elsewhere. Quite possibly many other elsewheres.

    So, one programmer uses a reference book to obtain public information as a quick and accurate reference to produce software that does something else, not competing with that first product.

    This is simply reducing the formatted facts back to simple facts (the database), which could have been garnered from the original sources (or any other source that collected them).

    So, if this case were to succeed, it would essentially say that any compiled source of freely available facts could not be used (without payment) to compile another set of facts. If facts could be copyrighted (which they can't) then I'd understand (in law) how they could think of starting a lawsuit up, but as it stands, I can't.

    If the author hadn't put attribution to what he thought was a good source of compiled information, instead of doing the job from scratch, nobody would have been any the wiser. He tried to do the honourable thing and place attribution. For his efforts, he gets a set of lawyers on his tail.

    Net effect, something good is taken away by someone with nothing to put it its place. Hopefully this story will pass around, getting the company a good old PR kicking for being idiots.

  43. Gert Selkobi
    Mushroom

    Image rights?

    I've also noticed that on their website, they are using images of various famous people.

    http://alabe.com/solargold.html

    I wonder if they have permission to use those images on their site? Anybody know if this is something that is reasonably easy to find out?

    1. orval
      Thumb Down

      TinEye

      TinEye is pretty useful for this kind of thing.

      I looked up their pic of Susan Sarandon and it was nicked from imagenesfotos.com. Terms of use say most stuff from the site is Creative Commons, but still require attribution, which they don't do.

    2. Rob Telford

      Weirdly, they since seem to have removed all the photographs of celebs that they were using on that page.

  44. Solomon Grundy
    Meh

    Wrong Target

    The strategic target never was the timekeeping service. The targets are all the commercial services that have been using the "stolen data" through the service. If they can prove the distributor of the service was using stolen property they can go after all the commercial entities (who have money: As opposed to some volunteer in his basement).

    Wouldn't it be funny if the timekeeper was working with AstroLabia to try and make some money off his years of work?

    1. AdamWill

      er

      if he wanted to make money off his work he wouldn't have put it up on a public server and gone around telling people they were welcome to use it for free...

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Timezone Database for Sale?

    Does Astrolabe have a timezone database for sale?

    http://alabe.com/contact.html

    Sales/Information: 1 (800) 843-6682

    Hours 9:30am - 5:30pm Eastern

    Fax: 1 (508) 896-5289

  46. Ilgaz

    Any debugger out there?

    Wonder if "astrology" guys copied/pasted some GPL code in their "application".

    If FSF really acted like an evil company, they would sure look for it and it would be a painful lesson for anyone coming up with a similar idea.

    Obviously, they know open source guys doesn't care enough, biting them back won't happen, so they sue.

    This is exactly why Apple should stay on *BSD and Apache as long as possible. Sue Apache? You sue Apple Inc, deal with it.

    Hope IBM releases their army of lawyers against them and one day these idiots with genius lawyer ask "wtf were we thinking?".

  47. Bob 18
    Stop

    Definition of Copygright

    Copyright protects the EXPRESSION of an idea, not the IDEA itself. If the TZ database files are a wholesale byte-for-byte copy of the astrology tables, then that might be copyright infringement. But simply using it as a source and re-working the timezone information into your own expression --- I doubt the case has much merit.

    1. Rob - Denmark

      From the article:

      "Indeed, Olson's database includes comments that credit The American Atlas from ACS Publications as the source for some of the historical data it contains."

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would this not be covered by database right in the UK? It's a US case, but I am curious.

  49. majorursa
    WTF?

    Google, being probably one of the biggest users of this data should make their own set and open it to the public. If they get sued by the Astrolobotomized then they (Google) should leave the US, they will have to do that anyway soon.

  50. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    1) "Free" doesn't excuse "theft".

    2) I don't know that theft is involved in this case, and neither do you.

    3) I don't think astrology is worthwhile either, but if they own something they are entitled to be paid for its use no matter how daffy their beliefs.

    4) I don't know that they truly own what they claim they do, and neither do you.

    5) It would be funny if their web-for-pay operations were to fall over because they could no longer tell the time reliably.

    6) I doubt this will happen.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Meh

      There is no "theft" in this case, Stevie.

      Slavery is not Freedom.

      War is not Peace.

      Intellectual Property is not a Thing. And cannot be "stolen".

      The juxtaposition of "stealing" and so-called "Intellectual Property" mainly proves the utter confusion and retardation of the person who uses it.

      Except when he is an "intellectual property" lawyer because then at least he knows how is bread is buttered.

      You could argue about breaking a licence or something but even that is debatable.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah! Open source.

    What more is there to be said?

  52. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Axe required.

    To chop the Internet backbone between USA and the rest of the world. US don't acknowledge there's another world out there (maybe why the book "Stranger in a Strange Land" was written there, even tho' the expression came from Exodus 2:22), so methinks they won't notice.

  53. Grubby

    It was my idea

    I invented time, and the world. Oh and is that a question mark yo've used there? I invented that too.

  54. Oninoshiko
    Stop

    This is a collection of facts, and I claim no copyright on it

    These guys actually have less of a leg to stand on then Fred Worth did while suing Parker Brothers over the game Trivial Pursuit. Fred alleged that Selchow & Righter Company copied many of it's facts from his books "The Trivia Encyclopedia," "Super Trivia," and "Super Trivia II." Selchow & Righter Company countered that these where just collections of facts, and therefor the facts contained therein are copyrightable. To quote the opinion of the court:

    "Factual works receive distinct treatment from fictional works under copyright law. Landsberg, 736 F.2d at 488. Indeed, facts, like ideas, are never protected by copyright law. Cooling Sys., 777 F.2d at 491; see also 17 U.S.C. Sec. 102(b) (1982) (expressly excluding discoveries from the scope of copyright protection). Because authors who wish to express ideas in factual works are usually confined to a "narrow range of expression ..., similarity of expression may have to amount to verbatim reproduction or very close paraphrasing before a factual work will be deemed infringed." Landsberg, 736 F.2d at 488. Fictional works, in contrast, which may be expressed with "infinite variations," enjoy a broader protection; a verbatim copy or close paraphrase is not a necessary element to establish infringement. Id. Worth cannot prevail in his claim without showing that the Trivial Pursuit game cards derived from his expression "something more than what 'must unavoidably be produced by anyone who wishes to use and restate' the facts that form the greater part of the work." Cooling Sys., 777 F.2d at 492 (quoting Landsberg, 736 F.2d at 489).

    It is clear, then, that the use of the factual content in Worth's books does not constitute infringement. "The discovery of a fact, regardless of the quantum of labor and expense, is simply not the work of an author." 1 M. Nimmer, supra, Sec. 2.11[E], at 2-169. The verbatim repetition of certain words in order to use the nonprotectible facts is also noninfringing; the game cards' repetition of words used by Worth to describe places, persons, and events constitutes "mere indispensable expression" of particular facts or ideas. See Frybarger, 812 F.2d at 530 (emphasis in original). If we were to hold otherwise, we would, in effect, extend copyright protection to the facts contained in Worth's books. See Landsberg, 736 F.2d at 489 (noting that because of the unavoidable expression required to restate the nonprotectible ideas in plaintiff's work, a finding of infringing similarity of expression would effectively grant a copyright in the work's nonprotectible ideas)."

    furthermore, SCotUS ruled in Fiest v. Rural:

    "While Rural has a valid copyright in the directory as a whole because it contains some forward text and some original material in the yellow pages, there is nothing original in Rural's white pages. The raw data are uncopyrightable facts, and the way in which Rural selected, coordinated, and arranged those facts is not original in any way. Rural's selection of listings - subscribers' names, towns, and telephone numbers - could not be more obvious, and lacks the modicum of creativity necessary to transform mere selection into copyrightable expression."

    Expect both of these to come up in court, expect judgement to be quick, expect the appellate court to decline to review. (although I am not a lawyer, maybe you should see what the RESULT is before lambasting the courts for something they haven't yet ruled on).

    http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/827/569/3179/

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=499&invol=340

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trivial_Pursuit#Fred_Worth_lawsuit

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Astrolabe currently violating copyright?

    Hm, let me get this straight, the script Astrolabe is using is for non commercial sites, alabe.com looks commercial for me, besides they did not publish required public link. Did they pay to the author? Are they violating the copyright?

    -------

    http://alabe.com/prog1.js

    * (c) Ger Versluis 2000 version 3.0, 25 november 2000 *

    * You may use this script on non commercial sites if you make a public link to http://home.planet.nl/~bustamil *

    ....

    ------

    1. Gert Selkobi

      @AC 17:55

      There is a link there now.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They're commercial. They sell a product, that's commercial.

  56. Marty
    Holmes

    Hold up!!

    i think most of you are missing the point.....

    He has only been accused of stealing some astrologers code! and to the guy involved it was more prudent to him to pull the plug and back away than defend it.

    Who knows what the actual legal status of the info is, but its his money that he would have to spend to defend some code that he got no financial gain from.

    Maybe all of the users of his database should get together and chip in a few quid and offer to pay for a legal defence team for him?

    would any of you be as quick defending your database in the courts if it was your own money you had to pay out?

  57. Volker Hett

    To all those defending Astrolab

    do you really think the knowledge about timezones is copyrightable at all and if so, copyrightable by some company from the USA? IMHO the current system of timezones was established in 1884 on an international conference in Washington.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Volker

      Did you know that timezones change from year to year, so do daylight saving dates and the amount of time that the clocks are changed by. Astrolabe collate this information, it's the collation that is copyright, no-one has a copyright on the actual information. The upshot is that anyone can publish any information they want about timezones, as long as they haven't copied someone else's work.

      All the questions in a game of trivial persuit are copyright, in that I can' use the work of the maker's of the game to run my pub quiz. The individual questions and answers can be asked by anyone, if they bother to find out the answers themselves. Incidentally you'll find a couple of questions which are wrong in each Trivial Persuit question pack, in order that the makers can prove they've been copied, if someone else uses them.

      1. Volker Hett

        Yes, I do know that timezones do change quite often. But I didn't know that I need a license from astrolabe to use timezone information published by the respective governments. I can't imagine that Venezuela or Cuba gave exclusive rights to some astrological publisher in the US, can you?

    2. Charles Manning

      Are people really defending Astrolabe?

      I thought they were merely making a comment on the legal position of what Astrolabe are saying, not whether Astrolabe is morally right or wrong.

      The law - in particularly IP law - has some severe flaws but that does not stop it being the law and being enforceable in the courts.

      Getting hot under the collar about Astrolabe being stinky-poo meanies does not change the law or their legal position.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    litigation strategy

    Assuming this was not a one on one copy of their presentation of the data and assuming that "replete with references" and the absence of the word "all" with regards to the term "this information"  in the complaint was deliberate (as it should be) then somehow this complaint strikes me as questionable. Interesting to see however the chilling effect it has had already.

    Forget Feist v. Rural Telecom, it applies obviously with regards to the invalidity of any sweat of brow notions for collections of facts, but this has been tackled more analogously in Assessment Technologies of WI v. Wiredata, 350 F.3d 640 (7th Cir. 2003), "This case is about the attempt of a copyright owner to use copyright law to block access to data that not only are neither copyrightable nor copyrighted, but were not created or obtained by the copyright owner. The owner is trying to secrete the data in its copyrighted program—a program the existence of which reduced the likelihood that the data would be retained in a form in which they would have been readily accessible. It would be appalling if such an attempt could succeed.", id. at 640.

    That case was also borderline in terms of misuse of copyright… might be worth asserting this as a counter claim here…

    The complaint states that the data was compiled from "historical research"... so the actual source data must have been held/obtained by other parties before Astrolabe tucked it away in their software... very similar to the case above.

    If the free database was really the main source for all these other products then I wonder whether the court could be persuaded to import from patent law and not grant the injunction due to public interest reasons (until the plaintiff prevails) in line with eBay v. MercExchange...

    Disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. :>

  59. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Time Zones are Laws

    Or, more accurately, established by laws in various jurisdictions.

    Some of those jurisdictions place restrictions or conditions on the publication of their public laws and the subsequent rights to that information, even when published 'for profit' . All it would take is for one small town to set its time zone and then attach some sort of viral 'open source' condition to the subsequent compilation and publication of its ordinances.

  60. admiraljkb
    WTF?

    Missing the point.

    I think most everyone is missing the point. It isn't just Linux impacted, it's every single person on the planet affected, with every OS impacted in some way. The Olson TZ tables are now in use by nearly every company, government, and military on the planet. The only exception (I'm aware of) is Microsoft, who for some reason still maintains their own TZ tables and do so in a much worse/slower manner. The Olson TZ tables were developed/maintained primarily by a US Government employee and were on a government FTP server.

    Who uses Olson? Cisco, IBM, Oracle, Unix/Linux, Apple, etc etc etc. Then add in the world governments and their militaries that use it by default, because they use products from the aforementioned list? I don't think Astrolabe has enough attorneys to take on the planet. :)

  61. jonfr
    WTF?

    Nobody bothered to check the website

    It seems that nobody bothered check the web site in question. The fact of the matter is that this website is nothing but selling bullshit to people. That is nonsense. It is also quite badly coded in html as can clearly be seen.

    The fact that this website has nothing to do with standard time makes this lawsuit baseless and it should be thrown out of court in the U.S. Somebody should also sue that guy for scams that he is currently selling to people. Because it is nothing else.

    I fear that the keeper of this Unix time database reacted too quickly. The owner of that bullshit website astrolable cannot due anything but loose. As he has no facts. In fact he got less then nothing to support his case.

    Now. Can somebody please sue him or report him to the FBI for the scams that he is currently selling over the internet.

    1. Stuart Castle

      Whether astrology is real or not is irrelevant. The coding of the website is similarly irrelevant. What is relevant is how much resemblance the data in the database bears to the data the company apparently publish and (assuming it bears enough resemblence) whether he has a licence to publish that data.

      I am no lawyer, and while you may not be able to copyright facts, I believe you can copyright the form in which they are published. Applying this to a database would mean that you could copyright the structure of the database, without copyrighting the data.

  62. Cheshire Cat
    Stop

    Not even in the US can you legally copyright a list of facts.

    So... I can get a list of the dates of the Kings and Queens of Engliand, put it in a book, and copyright it. Now anyone else publishing such a list has to pay me money!

    Obviously not. This is a small company looking to make money by suing an individual who cannot afford to defend themselves -- simple bullying.

    Had the defendant published a large section of their document verbatim, it would be different. He didn't. He read another source to get some public-domain facts, and then restated them in another way (ie, his database format).

    Why so much of the internet depends on a free source is another matter.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this time, and nobody checked Wikipedia?

    The copyright in question is asserted on the historical data copied from some atlases whose rights are apparently owned by Astrolabe. Such collection of data is not normally copyrightable in US law. No matter how much you worked to assemble the data, if the data was publicly available, and only the data is copied, then there is no copyright infringement.

  64. etabeta
    FAIL

    Copyright troll

    If the US doesn't change their patent and copyright laws very soon it will eventually ruin the entire economy!

    Every time a tech company has to shell out cash to continue operating it is eventually paid by the consumers. These parasitic brats are getting fat wallets for doing nothing.

    In this case this didn't happen (yet) because the just closed the project. What next? "time of the day" software patent?

    Give me a break ... and wake up USA...before it is too late!

  65. Charles Manning
    WTF?

    If they can unwind virus structures....

    by groupsourcing the problem then surely a bloody timezone db can be built up by a few people playing a game called "what's the time where you live?".

    1. MartinBZM
      Pirate

      It's 3:38 p.m. at the time of posting

  66. MartinBZM
    WTF?

    When you buy...

    a product or the company that ownes the product you generally are bound by the terms and agreements of the original company.

    unfortunately this does not hold in the U.S. where you can buy a company and instantly backpedal on the T's and A's to sue everyone who has been using the product since the Big Bang until the end of time (pun intended).

    It's like I've seen happening in another case: Someone buys the appartment over a popular bar, which has been at that location for many many years, and then after a couple of weeks petitions the local council to close the bar for causing nuisance because of the volume and choice of music.

    Guess what? The bar was closed!

    It's an inverted world when 'the law' comes into play.

  67. Gert Selkobi
    Thumb Up

    Facebook page gone

    I'm beginning to get the impression that alabe.com know that they have royally ballsed up here. Their facebook page has disappeared and their facebook 'app' just returns a blank content area, although that may have always been the case.

    Both alabe.com and their trolling legal representatives should not go unpunished for what they have attempted to do here. The lawyer already has a shady track record, I understand.

    Let us hope that some common sense prevails and that they are both made an example of. Sadly, being the US of A, I really doubt that will be the case.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call a legal procedure time-out

    This seems to be data on a USG site, and the guy was apparently doing it on government time. I have never heard of a successful take-down on a USG site--after all it is the blinking government. Therefore Astrolabe probably can't sue him for his official acts, and instead has to sue (join) the US Attorney General and the local US Attorney.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The spark that caused this lawsuit

    http://mm.icann.org/pipermail/tz/2011-October/007976.html

  70. Martin Usher
    FAIL

    I thought time zone information was public domain

    TIme Zones are agreed by international treaty therefore the time zone you're in should be a matter of public property, especially in the US. They first appeared in the 19th century.

    The astrology people are interested in siderial time - the exact local time which may (but probably does not) coincide with the local timezone time. They then use this to work out the exact locations of planets and stuff -- or at least what they think are the exact locations. From a computing perspective this is of notional interest at best unless you happen to be a GPS receiver (in which case you've got a far superior mechanism for finding the exact time than looking it up on some astrologer's website).

    The only hold that these astrologers have on the fellow is that they can afford to sue him. ICANN have the resources to tell them (politely, but firmly) to go **** themselves.

  71. John Rosengarten
    Pirate

    Stealing from the Public Domain

    First, the historical records of international time zones go back over 120 years, long before any current copyright can be claimed.

    Second, all changes to time zones must be by international conventions and are released as public standards, which are immediately public domain.

    Third, any legislative change that permits, restricts or alters previous standards is, by virture of being a public document, automatically public domain.

    Lastly, legislation or conventions declaring the observance of Daylight Savings time are also public documents, and therefore, public domain.

    So, what original work has Astrolabe contributed, and what was the date of that publication? Can we see some evidence of the data they claim copyright over?

    We, the citizens of the world and our own countries, have a right to use, without restriction, public domain materials. As a premise, we expect that once a document or work of art is deemed public domain, it can not be claimed by anyone as a new work subject to copyright.

    In short, we as citizens must protect our rights by opposing any attempt to steal from the public domain. Otherwise, your children might have to pay royalties to print a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Charta, or even the schoolchild's tables of multiplication!

    Any politician voting for privatization of public materials is an enemy of the people and should be solidly voted down. Political hacks who sell out our rights have no business in public office.

    Further, any corporation attempting to steal from our public domain, even something so simple as a table of time zones, should be countersued for breach of public trust!

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