NY MTA Realizing That Having People Create Apps For You Isn't Such A Bad Thing

from the about-time dept

Like many other transit authorities, NY's MTA took a ridiculous stance that it owned train scheduling time, and threatened independent developers, demanding large licensing fees for creating iPhone or web apps. This has never made any sense to me. Even if those transit authorities have licensed the data in the past, you can't copyright facts and (much more importantly) the goal of any transit authority should be to get more people comfortable with using public transit -- and if an independent developer is willing to create a useful app that does that for free, it should be celebrated, not met with a cease-and-desist. It looks like some at the MTA are finally realizing this, as they're backing off some of their earlier threats, and letting some apps move forward (thanks ADM for sending in the link). They don't have an official policy on this yet, but do admit that it makes sense to "evolve" to keep up with what people are doing. Later in the article, they basically admit they never really thought about this, and the whole idea that someone else might make an app for them seemed foreign, and thus, they reacted poorly to it. Either way, it's good to see them come around to realizing that opening up data makes a lot of sense.

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  1. icon
    fogbugzd (profile), 1 Oct 2009 @ 11:34pm

    Someone probably figured out what it would cost them.

    Someone at the MTA probably sat down and figured out what it would cost them to produce and maintain their own app, and then quickly realized how attractive it was to get the work done for free. A large system could expect several people to develop the app, and the best one will probably win out.

    I hope they don't mess it up with their policies now. A policy that said there must be a disclaimer about the MTA not being responsible for the app would be reasonable. I hope they don't decide that people should not be allowed to make money on their work and prohibit things like ads. The big question is whether they will permit any type of twitter-like or blog-like activities with the apps that might be critical of the MTA.

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

  2. identicon
    Dave, 2 Oct 2009 @ 8:04am

    governments [shakes head]

    i've run into this as a web developer. in my dopey small city, their website is awful. a couple times i've naively said, i could take a couple days and make you that functionality easily. i've learned not to ask anymore for several reasons.

    - you'd be threatening some slow-moving political appointee's job.. not acceptable.
    - you'd be stuck in endless meetings (unpaid) while they argue for months about how to do it.
    - control. they don't want to cede it, as you said.
    - because it has to be decided by committee and meet regulations (real or imagined), they'd shoot down every idea you had until you'd end up doing 10% of what you proposed. for very, very little money.

    no wonder nothing ever gets done.

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

  3. icon
    Thomas (profile), 2 Oct 2009 @ 8:52am

    One would think...

    that an application (or anything) that promotes use of public transit would be a good thing. Unfortunately, this mentality is not present in far too many public transit systems.

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

  4. icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), 2 Oct 2009 @ 9:09am

    I think that this is very telling of the times we live in when it comes to IP. If I didn't think through my reaction to someone using something I made, I would be thrilled and ask them how it's working out for them, not offended and ready to sue. Why should suing be the first reaction? It reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a family member. I was preping for an interview with a software firm by putting together a little piece of software that would show off some of my skills. (Actually cleaning up something I had made in the past) I thought I would bring it over and give it to them to show off how I really do have the skills I am claiming. My family member's reaction was to warn me to copyright the thing first. Why? It was a piece of software I made which did not do a whole lot and there were plenty of equivalent Open Source and proprietary equivalents that did even more stuff... There was absolutely no reason for me to prevent people from using that. Also, if the company did "steal" it from me an marketed it with success, I could easily go to their competitors and say: "Look at what those guys are selling. I made it and I can make similar stuff. Hire me." It took a while for my relative to understand, but eventually, he said: "Oh... I guess you're doing it because it's not in the 'Linux' spirit." I gave up on explaining and just agreed. I think it's sad that everyone's instinct nowadays is to lock up IP as tight as possible. And those of us who feel there are better things to do with our time and feel we might benefit from the notoriety of writing software valuable enough to be "stolen" are just linux-loving idealists... I think that mentality is costing a lot of smart people money and is costing us their innovation.

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

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