Just when you think you have seen it all a case of copyright violation has been filed by an astrology publisher against a keeper of a timezone database. This has caused the TZ database to shut down pending further proceedings. TZ is widely used in the GNU/Linux world.
I have no details on the “cause of action”. Astrolabe, Inc. has been around a while, as has the database. I wonder what provoked their harassment now. What could they possibly think was copied from them? The database is a list of timezones. Collections of factual data should not be copyrightable. After all there is a unique set of countable timezones with known displacements. Is it the database itself or file formats? Further, the database is in the public domain… Some of the data was copied from the “American Atlas”. That should not be actionable if it is just the data and not the layout, format, etc.
SlashDot also has some information.
A comment in TheRegister suggests the issue is actually about data…
” the complaint contains this:-
â€œThese 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 worldâ€.”
in Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217 (1954), the Supreme Court stated “Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the ideaâ€”not the idea itself.”
Thus, it would seem the case against TZ data is very weak.