Train Operators Around The World Stopping Others From Helping Riders... Due To Intellectual Property

from the how-dare-you-help-people!! dept

What is it about folks who operate train lines that make them so confused when it comes to intellectual property? They seem to be focused on harming their own businesses in an effort to "protect" intellectual property. If enforcing your intellectual property makes you worse off, then why are you enforcing it? Just today, we received two separate stories of incredibly backwards thinking from those who operate train-lines -- which makes you really wonder why some people get so focused on protecting intellectual property that they lose sight of the fact that it's harming their business.

We've already talked about those who run trains in Germany and Australia cracking down on people creating their own iPhone train schedule apps, claiming they violated intellectual property rights of the train operators. This makes very little sense for a variety of reasons. First, it is still quite ridiculous that any sort of factual information can be covered by copyright -- but in Europe such "collections" of information can be covered by the database copyrights -- the idea that if you put factual information into a "database" that database then deserves copyright protection. Europe has this, while the US does not -- and studies have shown that contrary to what copyright supports insist, this increased right has actually hindered the database industry in Europe... but that hasn't made the law go away.

But, of course, even more idiotic than just the question of copyrighting facts, is the simple point that these apps make it easier for people to ride the trains, which should be exactly what the train operators are encouraging. Thanks to the mantra of certain copyright supporters that "free is bad," some folks seem unable to think out more than a single step. The fact is, that if people can make a great train schedule app that makes it easier to take the train, then that means more people will take the train, which is where the real money is for train operators. But, of course, the folks who only see one step out, think "wait, we should be making money on that data!" even if it means fewer people take the train, and the net benefit is less.

The latest to make that decision is the UK's National Rail Enquiries, who forced the creators of the MyRail Lite app to shut down (thanks to Donald for sending this in). MyRail Lite was a free iPhone app. NRE is offering its own app... for £4.99. So in the short-term rush to try to score a bit of money from a small group of people, NRE is making the overall rail system a lot more complex for the majority of people. Short-term thinking at its finest.

Unfortunately, the author of the article, Rory Cellan-Jones, starts out by agreeing that this is dumb, but then seems to change his mind, after reading the silly James DeLong article about newspapers where he (in typical DeLong fashion) insists that the use of "free" is what destroyed newspapers. The arguments are easy to debunk, but Cellan-Jones seems to have fallen for them. But it's easy to see how wrong it is in this case: the business NRE is transportation. If it gets people from point A to point B more efficiently, it will be able to make more money charging for that service. A free app that makes the process more efficient helps the bottom line. Trying to scrape up a bit of extra cash at the front end, while making the process more inefficient for more people is incredibly short-sighted.

But, that isn't the most ridiculous story we heard today about trains and intellectual property. Lucretious sends in the news that a group of four very nice women in New York City who have been voluntarily working to make public transportation in NYC more pleasant have been ordered to stop by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The women have set up a website, MTAService.org where they provide information on how to make your public transit in NY better. It's run by four women, who also ride the subways regularly (wearing their own made up uniforms) trying to help provide better service -- helping people find where they need to go, or helping mothers with strollers, for example.

But, of course, the MTA has sent them a cease-and-desist, demanding they pull down the information. You can see the trademark worries -- even though the website clearly states that the MTA Service Specialists (as they call themselves) are in no way affiliated with the MTA (they note "unfortunately.") But, rather than the MTA doing the smart thing, and seeing if they can actually associate themselves with these helpful women, the MTA just wants to shut them down. This is short-term thinking again. Sure, there almost certainly is a valid trademark claim here -- but if someone actually took the time to sit back and look at the facts of the situation, they would realize that a better response would be to see if they could sign these women up officially to help improve service on the subway. As the women note, they're just trying to improve the MTA's service, without costing the city any money at all.

Once again... we see how this aggressive believe in "we must protect our IP!" is actually being used to hinder service improvements, rather than help them.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Nick, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 5:16am

    Too Many Liberties

    Come on Mike! I'm a long time reader of your work and check your site several times a day to keep track of what's going on out there. Rather than spend the time researching all the stories you cover, I tend to rely on your characterization of the stories you link to. Looks like my mistake.

    Being an ip attorney in NYC, this story about the MTA girls has been on my radar and no where, not even the article you linked to, has it been said that the MTA has asked these girls to stop what they're doing. The request has been simply to alter their website so it doesn't use the MTA's trademarks. Yeah, there's a disclaimer, but its effectiveness is debatable given the site as a whole, which you even acknowledge. To me, it seems a reasonable (though perhaps not the absolute best, but we don't know what has led to this point) way to ensure people don't think these girls are officially endorsed or working for the MTA.

    I'm just upset because this is a pretty clear example of twisting the story to fit the point you want to make. Usually, if I don't agree with a certain point you are making, I do tend to see merit in your argument. However, when something as blatant as this occurs, it causes me to question my reliance on your writing. This certainly isn't the first time I've seen this happen, but this is pretty bad. So please, stop taking such liberties so I can trust what you write.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Nick, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 5:50am

    Re: Too Many Liberties

    Seriously, this is the first time you noticed? Remind me never to hire you to represent me :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Joseph Durnal, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    Washington DC Metro

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/19/AR2009031903620.html
    It seems that the Washington DC Metro system is doing just the opposite.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Doombringer, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:02am

    A simple case of...

    Bureaucracy over humanity. Things like this make me realize what a depressing, short-sighted lot we are... Or not so much "we", I feel its more of a "them" thing. Damn bureaucrats. Its always been Us v.s. Them, but "them" have been in power for too long, and we need to start shifting the tide.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:09am

    Re: Too Many Liberties

    Mike does this more often than most would like to admit. His website is basically a preaching to the choir sort of circumstance, so they lick it up and spew back "Masnick's Law" and "Streisand Effect" every so often as praise for the guru.

    Twisting a story, leaving out important information, or cutting a quote short (like he did with Lars Ulrich the other day) is all in a days work. It's one of the reasons I have so much fun posting here, because of many of the readers aren't using their critical reading skills to spot it.

    Congrats to you for having the attachments to say something about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Sheep Herder, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    We are deserve it...

    We are fat, lazy sheep here in a America. As long as we have saturated fat and sugar to stuff down our gullet and tv to pacify us, we allow the government to do whatever they want. When something changes we don’t like, we whine like mules but then settle back down and accept it passively.

    Until we rise up out of our stupors and kick out corrupt government officials and those that live only to serve the special interest groups, we are sheep and slaves to our own sloth and decadence!

    Wake up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Jim, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re: A simple case of...

    "We" need to start shifting the tide in the management of NYC Transit? MTA is too powerful to be allowed to retain their tyranny? Really? That's what you get from this story?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Jim, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re: A simple case of...

    "We" need to start shifting the tide in the management of NYC Transit? MTA is too powerful to be allowed to retain their tyranny? Really? That's what you get from this story?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    jonnyq, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:32am

    Re: Too Many Liberties

    After reading the article, I don't see where Mike misrepresented anything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:42am

    tv to pacify us, we allow the government to do whatever they want.

    I hate to break it to you, but the USA is hardly unique in this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Greg, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    I don't know about the MTA girls - even as someone who rides the New York City subway every day, it took me a second to realize that they weren't official. I mean obviously they aren't, and the article said so before I clicked on the link, but the disclaimer isn't as in-your-face as I suppose the MTA would like it to be. They use the MTA logo, and their site layout is an obvious rip of MTA.info, only with more typos.

    Also there's the fact that the whole site seems like a big eff-you to the MTA, in response to the fare hikes and service cutbacks that are coming down the pipe. I can see why the MTA would be unhappy about that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    PaulB, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Strange

    Very strange. Well for the last company I worked for we used to get the data free of charge from Network Rail (whom run the network and not NRE) in the form of a 200mb text file. It was a pain to parse into a usable format but the information was free. As I assume this is where NRE get their data from I'm not sure how they can claim copyright on it.

    There should also be a JourneyWeb protocol they can use to talk to other journey planners to get the data.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    known coward, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 7:04am

    Trademark violation or something else

    I get why the MTA would want their trademarks taken off, as it does seem to this “moron in a hurry” that there may be a connection between them and the MTA, especially knowing all the MTA logo’s are trademarked.

    But, I wonder if the grrls would win on a free speech / Satire / parody argument. The site does make it fairly clear that they are unhappy with MTA policy towards the riding public and that they feel, this is the way the MTA should be treating the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 7:27am

    Re: Too Many Liberties

    The site says that the MTA sent a cease-and-desist letter giving them 72 hours to "take down a video and make other changes to their site." Mike's version: "the MTA has sent them a cease-and-desist, demanding they pull down the information."

    I don't really see much "twisting of the story here", if any. He indicated that these women are only helping the MTA do its job, and that the MTA, while legally correct, is aggressively enforcing its IP rights to the detriment of itself and its customers. So what are you bitching about? What part of that is incorrect?

    It seems to me if he was attempting to "twist the story", he wouldn't link directly to the article and allow anybody to comment on it below where he might be called out. Yet, he gets "called out" even though he accurately represented the MTA's actions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 7:29am

    Re: Too Many Liberties

    Perhaps you were confusing it with the first instance, which regarded information on train schedules?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Yakko Warner, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Too Many Liberties

    "The MTA just wants to shut them down."

    That doesn't seem twisting or over-dramatizing to you?

    Stop using trademarks ≠ shut down.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    railer, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    For train timetables covering the whole of Europe. Use the free iPhone app iRail. Very good and easy to use. hopefully they wont shut that down as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Too Many Liberties

    yeah, but "shut them down" fits better in support "masnick's laws".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    David, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Every Mike story is twisted!

    It seems that Mike almost always twists everything to suit his idea that ALL intellectual property and copyright, etc is by definition bad. It doesn't matter if it's an artist's right to own his work or performance or if it's companies right to own information that it created, to Mike it's all bad.

    Look for my soon to be released collection of Mike's articles available as a chargeable download (for which Mike will receive no payment - because it's in his best interest that I be allowed to sell it).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    CrushU, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    Funny

    I think it's funny watching people mince words to try and bash Mike... Damn, I need more popcorn now.

    For those who just tuned in, the first comment had the best arguments. Except "MTA shutting down site?!" was not the point of this article. The point was that "Yes, they're within the legal rights granted by Trademark law, BUT a better course of action, rather than insisting that these women are not associated with MTA, would be to HIRE them."

    Perhaps it's just my interpretation, but it seems to me the reason they were using the MTA logo, with disclaimer, was to get noticed by the MTA.

    I do applaud the first commenter for checking out the article when he suspected something bogus, however. Now just take the information and apply common sense to it... Presto! The point of the article: "Overuse of Trademark Rights is Bad."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 27th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Too Many Liberties

    Twisting a story, leaving out important information

    As others pointed out, I did not twist this story or leave out important information. I said that they wanted them to change the site.

    (like he did with Lars Ulrich the other day)

    Um. You say that as if I took his quote out of context. I did not. He made two separate points in the quote, and I was only commenting on the second point. It made no sense to include the first point which had nothing to do with what we were talking about.

    The only one twisting things here is you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 9:43am

    Re: Every Mike story is twisted!

    Look for my soon to be released collection of Mike's articles available as a chargeable download (for which Mike will receive no payment - because it's in his best interest that I be allowed to sell it).

    Mike's already addressed this "threat" several times in the past - and basically he doesn't care. If you can convince someone to pay you money for something that Mike gives away for free, more power to ya!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Thomas Whitney, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    The real issue isn't intellectual property, I'm thinking, but digital security. As long as the rail lines allow their information to be processed and published by a third party where they have no control, they virtually have no control over the integrity of their information.

    This site is brillant about explaining this: http://www.justaskgemalto.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    MTA has a point

    Nick:

    The request has been simply to alter their website so it doesn't use the MTA's trademarks.

    Mike:

    Sure, there almost certainly is a valid trademark claim here

    I think anyone who looks at the two websites side-by-side would agree that there is some trademark infringement going on. Unless you see the disclaimer (which is dwarfed by the rest of the page), you'd have every reason to believe it's an official MTA site. Mike's point wasn't that MTA was legally wrong to send the Cease and Desist. It's that trying to stop people who are trying to help you isn't the smartest thing to do.

    Of course, without seeing the actual letter, we don't really know if MTA was trying to shut them down, as Mike claims, or simply asking them to make some changes to their site to make it clearer that it's not an official MTA site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Re:

    This site is brillant about explaining this: http://www.justaskgemalto.com

    Is there a link to a specific discussion on that site? I didn't see anything on the home page, and I don't have time to go exploring every section they have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    C.T., Mar 27th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Allowing people to use your trademark because it will benefit you seems appealing on its face. However, a basic familiarity with trademark laws and their interpretation by the courts instructs that this would be absolutely terrible business practice. For better or worse, our current laws require entities to vigilantly police the use of their trademarks. Failure to do so can have severe unintended consequences... including the potential loss of trademark rights. Allowing people to use your marks in this way is tantamount to naked licensing, and is proof of abandonment of the mark.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Rogers Cadenhead, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    The MTA Girls are Protesters

    I think your description of the MTA girls as trying to be helpful is too generous. As their FAQ makes clear, they're doing it to protest unkept promises on service improvements. It's arguable whether or not they're stepping on MTA's trademarks, but the intent isn't simply to be helpful, like that train schedule iPhone app.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Yakko Warner, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Too Many Liberties

    I said that they wanted them to change the site.

    You said (emphasis added):
    But, rather than the MTA doing the smart thing, and seeing if they can actually associate themselves with these helpful women, the MTA just wants to shut them down.

    "Change the site" ≠ "shut them down". Even a "moron in a hurry" can see that, Mike.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Michael Lawson, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Surely the data is free?

    Mike, you've made a classic mistake here about this National Rail app. Users *aren't* paying 4.99 to access the data. There's no monthly subscription - access to the data is free, now and forever.

    Moreover, users of the app are not viewing a timetable in a database. National Rail aren't copyrighting "facts". Users are accessing *live* train times, information which is dynamically collected (at a cost) and viewed over-the-air in the app for free.

    What you're *actually* buying, for a one-off charge of 4.99, is an application that provides an interface to view the (free) data, via a native iPhone interface, with location-based services and other iPhone-specific goodies. If you don't want to pay for an application to access the data, you can access it for free via National Rail's web site in Mobile Safari. If you do choose to use Mobile Safari, then the service displays adverts to cover costs. Every user has this choice.

    > But it's easy to see how wrong it is in this case: the business NRE
    > is transportation. If it gets people from point A to point B more
    > efficiently, it will be able to make more money charging for that
    > service.

    Here, again, you've missed the point. Fares for most train services in the UK, including season tickets, are capped by the UK Government, so the train companies can't make "more money" from their regular commuting customers. And even if they *could* do so, if National Rail were to suggest increasing ticket prices to pay for an improved information service which can only be used by iPhone owners, they'd be roundly lambasted by commuters and media alike. By charging 4.99 for an application that only iPhone users can use, they ensure that the cost of application development is borne by those who can use it and who will find it useful - not by all train travellers. What's unfair about that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Funny

    If "MTA shutting down the site" isn't the main focus of the article, why not write a better article about what was intended? It's because the intention is to make the MTA look bad specifically on an issue that Mike can twist in his favor (and will undoubtedly link to in the future to "prove" some future post about schedules or train companies or whatever).

    In the end, we don't have the MTA's motivation in front of us. Liablity? Union agreement? Contract with third party? Maybe they can't have a third party provide the info in a manner that might make people think the MTA is actively involved. Obviously, having MTA logos and whatnot on the site might be misleading. Would someone who misses a train (and a meeting, loses money, whatever) because the schedule changed but this website didn't update have recourse against the MTA? When you consider that a sitting judge sued a dry cleaner for 50,000 for losing a pair of pants, anything is possible.

    So without MTA's side of the story, it's just a nasty jab that Mike can use later to justify his laws, without needing to prove anything at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    CrushU, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Funny

    Hehe.

    So you want him to write an article about trademark law being abused. Probably so you can be all offended and ask for how it was abused. So he writes one with how it was abused, and you say it shouldn't say anything about how it was abused, just that it shouldn't be.

    Dance, Troll, Dance! Hehehe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Mar 27th, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    Hmmmm... I didn't realise there was another app...

    Basically, I'm visiting family in the UK from Spain over this weekend. I had a look to see if there was an app for my iPod Touch that would allow me to get train schedules and store them on my phone. I refuse to pay for an app that just reformats data I can get for free via a browser, and the only relevant one I could see was the £5 one. I might have been tempted for 99p or something like that, but £5 is way too much.

    So, I didn't bother, and I'm printing some pages off to take with me instead. It's less convenient and incomplete (no facility for planning if the flight is late and the pages I printed don't cover the time I actually arrive).

    It's very silly, especially since British train travel is already very expensive as it is. All this really does is make me want to get a bus on the Spanish end of my trip and fly to an airport closer to my destination so I don't have to bother messing around with trains...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    faceless, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Official Website -> http://www.mta.info

    The Women's Website -> http://www.mtaservice.org

    they cloned the site and made a few minor changes. in fact, when you click on the maps option, they pop up a new window (with a hidden address bar) to the official MTA site.

    comparing this website that pretty much is a copy of the MTA site to the blocking of train schedules by other transportation agencies in europe just comes off as disingenuous.

    there are many useful services and places that use the MTA scheduling information, including Google Maps Mobile, which incorporates scheduling information into their public transportation direction results, and the OnNYTurf MTA/Google Maps Mashup that the MTA has had no issues with, probably because they don't use MTA logos to try and disguise themselves as officially sanctioned by the MTA.

    i like the ideas these women are promoting, and the service they are providing, i just don't see why they have to do it under the guise of being with the MTA.

    the headline of the story is about train operators around the world stopping others from helping riders, and the MTA doesn't seem to be doing that, they just seem to be saying 'not with our logos'.

    i noticed the article mentioned that they have been modifying their uniforms, and would like point out that they're actually quite lucky that they haven't been arrested yet, as impersonating an MTA worker is illegal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: Funny

    In the end, we don't have the MTA's motivation in front of us.

    Actually, we do. Remember that trademarks (unlike copyrights) can be lost if they're not defended. Since it's pretty clear that the other site is infringing MTA's trademarks, MTA is obligated by trademark law to ask them to stop - even if they don't have a problem with the service itself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 27th, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Every Mike story is twisted!


    Look for my soon to be released collection of Mike's articles available as a chargeable download (for which Mike will receive no payment - because it's in his best interest that I be allowed to sell it).


    Yes, indeed. As we've said, you're free to go and do that if you can. Good luck! Please let us know how it goes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 27th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    Re:

    Allowing people to use your trademark because it will benefit you seems appealing on its face. However, a basic familiarity with trademark laws and their interpretation by the courts instructs that this would be absolutely terrible business practice. For better or worse, our current laws require entities to vigilantly police the use of their trademarks. Failure to do so can have severe unintended consequences... including the potential loss of trademark rights. Allowing people to use your marks in this way is tantamount to naked licensing, and is proof of abandonment of the mark.

    That's not necessarily true, though it is what many lawyers will say. It is true that you are required to police it so that it is not considered abandoned or generic, but you are able to license it. It would not have been difficult for the MTA to offer a simple license.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    It would not have been difficult for the MTA to offer a simple license.

    Apparently you have not taken a close look at the video. It is a "smack down" on the MTA.

    Personally, I am not inclined to suggest that this matter is all about IP when I have not seen a copy of the letter sent to the site by the MTA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    knowing the facts, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 5:27am

    MTA service specialists

    It appears that none of the writers here have the facts. Yes, they have been ordered to stop. Their" uniforms" were destroyed in a structure of the dwelling that they shared. There have been many professionals that have helped these girls all along due to the fact that this is how they think a "rider" should be teated. I say you get in contact with "specialist Kiki" for the actual facts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Ron, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Train Operators ... IP

    This behavior on the part of British train operators is not unexpected.

    There is an American, Paul Lutus, who made his fortune in software in Silicon Valley. Satisfied with his wealth, he retired at a young age to sail his boat around the world and write free software.

    One of his apps, which runs on platforms from Windows to Palm (not sure about linux/Mac) is called Jtides (see www.arachnoid.com). It includes tidal data accumulated by governments around the world and instantly generates local tide tables of excellent accuracy -- except for the UK area.

    Some time after publishing his app, he was C&Ded by Her Majesty's Government, claiming the data for the British Isles as "Crown property". His decision was that he would not pay the demanded license fee for data to be distributed with his free app. So, under the requirements of the C&D letter, he simply deleted the UK data from the database he distributed with his app.

    Excellent work, Queenie -- your nation's yachtsmen are now deprived of a valuable, portable, marine-safety-oriented tool, all due to your grasping attitude toward data gathered at the expense of your own loyal subjects.

    By the way -- the Palm device referred to earlier was originally called the Palm Pilot. However, they had to change its name because the executives of the company that manufactured the Pilot, a cheap, disposable ball-point pen, apparently woke from screaming, sweating nightmares terrified that someone would confuse their "product" with a real computing device worth a few hundred dollars. I know I'd feel sorely abused if I went to the drugstore and purchased a twelve-pack of Pilot pens for $3.00 + tax, then opened the package at home only to find I had not purchased a dozen handheld computers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anon, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 6:36pm

    Slightly Off Topic

    I'm from Australia, so I can only speak to how the Australian Public Transport system works, not the American one, but it's worth thinking about if they are similar.

    In Australia, the public transport systems, almost everywhere in the country, are run by private business that get funding off the government. Sure, they collect ticket revenue, but this goes to the Government and then the Government pays the company to run the services. The ammount of tickets sold has absolutely no bearing on how much the company gets paid to run a service. Think about that. If a train runs from one end of the line to the other and takes no passengers then the Government gets no money for that train. But the company who runs the train gets the cost of running the train, the drivers wage etc etc. They get paid, and the less people on the service, the better. For the company. Less people on the service means less people complaining about the service, thats just simple maths there. Less complaints means it looks like they're doing a good job. Doing a good job means they get to do more runs, increasing the size of their business (Here I'm talking about non-train services like busses, where it is easier to increase the number of services)

    The reason the train companys would want to piss off their "customers" is because their "customers" aren't really theirs, and the less non-customers they have on their trains, breaking them, making a mess and complaining, the better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    nasch, Mar 29th, 2009 @ 7:55pm

    Re: Surely the data is free?

    National Rail aren't copyrighting "facts". Users are accessing *live* train times

    Because it's live, that makes it not facts?

    By charging �4.99 for an application that only iPhone users can use, they ensure that the cost of application development is borne by those who can use it and who will find it useful - not by all train travellers. What's unfair about that?

    I wouldn't necessarily say it's unfair, but it sure is stupid. These people didn't realize someone else would make a free app to do the same thing? If they couldn't figure out any other way to recoup the investment other than by charging for the software, and if it wasn't expected to increase ridership, and only benefited iPhone users, they probably just shouldn't have made it at all.

    What seems more likely is that they were going to install everything needed to monitor and transmit train locations anyway for other reasons, and made the iPhone app in an attempt to cash in on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This