Berlin Metro Demands Removal Of Free iPhone Timetable App

from the wouldn't-want-people-to-know-when-to-take-a-train... dept

Every day, we wake up hoping that some bit of common sense will find its way into the world when it comes to copyright issues, and yet every day we seem to find out about more and more ridiculous situations. For example, the Berlin Metro system has ordered a 21-year-old student to stop distributing an iPhone app that helps travelers look up a train schedule. I’ve used similar apps for train schedules in the US, and they’re quite useful. In fact, the convenience of them makes it more likely that I would ride a train. So what’s the complaint? Copyright, of course, with a touch of jealousy thrown in.

The Berlin Metro people are claiming that the application somehow violates their copyright on the train schedule and map. It’s unclear whether or not there’s any substance to the copyright claim. While in the US you can’t copyright facts (such as a train schedule), in Europe they do have “database rights,” which allow someone to copyright a collection of facts. Perhaps a timetable might fall under such a definition, though it would still be ridiculous to stop this app from being offered.

But, based on statements from the folks at the Berlin Metro, it’s clear that this is not just a copyright issue. It’s a jealousy issue:

That is our copyright and Apple is one of the richest firms in the world.

This fits with the psychological theory that many people are upset at being better off if it means that someone else is in an even better position. In this case, the Berlin Metro is worse off, because fewer people will use the Metro (and pay for it) because it’s not as convenient to get the information. But according to the Berlin Metro, that’s fine, because Apple is too rich (even though this app doesn’t make Apple any money). Logic, apparently, is not a strong suit of the folks who run the Berlin Metro.

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Comments on “Berlin Metro Demands Removal Of Free iPhone Timetable App”

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Pragmatist says:

I still don't get it

I realize that in the domain of copyright logic is rarely an issue of interest but I’m completely stumped by this. Isn’t it fair to say that Berlin Metro makes this information available to the public for free? If that’s the case then retardation is the only real explanation for Berlin Metro shutting down this not-for-profit venture. Great idea, shut down a service that increases patronage.

Kieran Huggins (user link) says:

Re: Similar Project

We’ve been careful not to infringe on the TTC’s copyright, and even compiled our own database… I don’t know if this is the case in Berlin.

Since our data is open source, we’ve been encouraging 3rd party development and recently saw the release of an iPhone app with our data: Red Rocket

The TTC has not commented on our work at all… they certainly haven’t tried to interfere, and that’s good enough for me 😉

philmore says:

Not quite accurate

Actually, the article is not quite correct.
The BVG (Metro company in Berlin) only lamented the use of copyrighted map images/graphics, which were subsequently excluded from the app. The guy who made it then crowdsourced the mapping (via a different iphone app with GPS enabled pinpointing of individual stations) and republished the map with his own map.
See this german article for an accurate description of what happened.

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