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Astrolabe vs Arthur Olson et al lawsuit
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zoidsoft



Joined: 10 Feb 2006
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Location: Pulaski, NY

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:29 am    Post subject: Astrolabe vs Arthur Olson et al lawsuit Reply with quote

There has been a lawsuit filed in Boston that every astrologer needs to know about that can affect the quality of time zone information in astrology software:

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/10/06/1743226/civil-suit-filed-involving-the-time-zone-database

This is basically an attempt to maintain a monopoly on time zone information and prevent the Terran Atlas (which is based in part upon the Olson time zone data) from gaining a foothold in the marketplace. It attempts to force all astrology software developers to pay royalties to ACS and stop their use of outside resources which have recently proven to be more accurate than the ACS data.

Companies like Oracle, Sun Microsystems, all Unix servers throughout the world, IBM, HP, Linux and the BSDs (Apple, Juniper, Isilon/EMC), etc are all being notified that the astrology software company Astrolabe is responsible for shutting down their access to time zone data.

One concern that has recently occurred to me because of the political climate is that this might generate legislation to make astrology illegal or limit its use in some way. If the wrong people with power and clout decide that a new law needs to be written to outlaw astrology because of debacles like this, it could cause problems for decades. Astrolabe has picked a fight with the world of Unix/Linux, Sun Microsystems and practically every server on the planet that uses the Olson TZ database. It is going to generate a huge backlash.
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Eddy



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Astrolabe vs Arthur Olson et al lawsuit Reply with quote

Smells like a case of copyright trolling (by Astrolabe). Here's the complaint: http://regmedia.co.uk/2011/10/07/astrolabe_time_zone_complaint.pdf

Juridical question is whether facts can be copyrighted and whether the collection of facts can be copyrighted.

In here,
http://www.thedailyparker.com/PermaLink,guid,bded3439-6019-4389-93a3-29af6597d43a.aspx , an essay is mentioned, http://www.rbs2.com/cfact.pdf . The Feist- case is mentioned, which overruled previous cases with the remarks that not only facts can not be copyrighted but nor can the " 'sweat of the brow'/'industrious collection' be protected by copyright.

It seems that Astrolabe hasn't a strong position but there's criticism on the Feist case and perhaps the Court will switch over again to a new precedent. Being right and getting it right still are different things.

An even worse side of all this is that makes us face the facts that in cases like these astrology is nothing more than politics and big business just for making huge profits.

zoidsoft wrote:
One concern that has recently occurred to me because of the political climate is that this might generate legislation to make astrology illegal or limit its use in some way.

I don't think this will happen. Cases like this can be imagined in any kind of field where money can be made. Moreover, in daily practice, enforcement is almost impossible. In some cases I think it wouldn't be a bad idea though if making ephemerides for thousands of asteroids or other gimmicks would be restricted, but for the time being it depends on the conscience of the producers. But with the big fish around, I have little hope.
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zoidsoft



Joined: 10 Feb 2006
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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is what I posted on IANA about what this lawsuit is all about:

-------

This lawsuit is in part a vendetta against me and my use of the Olson time zone database for the Terran Atlas and you will see why below.

In 2005, my software had breakthrough success because the implementations that I had suggested to Astrolabe, Esoteric Technologies, etc since 1995 went unheeded and I eventually decided to program it for myself. That is the same time (2005) the offers for hiring came from several of the top companies including Astrolabe.

Gary Christen (CEO of Astrolabe) tried to hire me on three separate occasions and I refused. When Astrolabe obtained the ACS Atlas (when ACS went bankrupt in July 2008), I was concerned that I wouldn't have an atlas for my software anymore. The last time that they tried to hire me, the ACS Atlas became leverage to coerce me into working for them because I had no guarantee that they would give me access to the ACS Atlas. When I refused the last time, I managed to obtain a verbal agreement that I would send my customers to them for a special discount on the ACS Atlas and was relieved for a while. But over the next several months, my customers started complaining about the run around they were getting on the special deal that Gary promised my customers. Eventually one of my customers said that he thought that Astrolabe was trying to make me look bad and disadvantage my business by making it difficult to obtain the stand alone version of the ACS Atlas which is required by my software (but not Solar Fire which has the ACS Atlas bound with it). He was so fed up with the run around Astrolabe gave him that he formatted a database of latitudes and longitudes for me and asked me to add it to my software. That got me back on the issue of researching time zones after which I found the Olson time zone database. I subsequently found from the Olson sources that the ACS data was extremely unreliable, much more than I previously thought.

A few days after I released the Terran Atlas I got the following email from Gary Christen (which has inaccuracies in it, but keep in mind this copy was forwarded to his lawyers):

-------

Hi Curt,

Kirk Kahn just sent this link to me and it is very disturbing.

http://astrology-x-files.com/terranatlas.html

You, of all people know that we have invested serious $ into the ACS
Atlas and have given you and your customers very good pricing for its
purchase. We have also been doing serious investment into re-writing
this copyrighted code.

We have an obligation to the Michelsen-Simms Trust and to ourselves to
legally protect this data base. While another entity may have illegally
published some of this material into the public domain, that does make
subsidiary use of pirated material legal for any party.

We will be investigating the Olsen work, as it has just come to our
attention. There is no instance where any portion of the Atlas has been
given permission to be brought into the public domain. Such use is
theft, as we understand it.

The research into the past time zone changes and time usage by Neil
Michelsen, Thomas Shanks, the Pottenger brothers and countless hired
researchers was financially paid for by ACS at great expense and went on
for many years. Many of the sources used, we know, are no longer extent
and cannot be re-created by any means. The bankruptcy of ACS and the
years leading up to it have been a low point in the ACS Atlas research
and development. Since assuming ownership 2 years ago, we have been
involved in legal proceedings concerning the Atlas and have spent the
time since this spring doing major upgrades to the entire code base.
While we are correcting some errors in overseas tables, these areas are
being greatly expanded.

It is very easy to take what seems to be public information and cobble
together something new. One only has to copy and do the details.
However, the historical information underlying the time tables is still
owned by Astrolabe and the Michelsen-Simms Trust and re-creating it
without the aid of copying Thomas Shanks' life work would be very hard
indeed. And he, as well as the Pottenger brothers still get royalties
for all uses of the work, so this is stealing from them as well.

One can self justify for any activity and twist morals at will. You are
quite aware that this is an ethical violation as well as a legal one as
you made no attempt to consult with us as to rights and legalities. What
looks like a loophole is, in turn, a sleazy rat hole that reveals poorly
thought out intentions and damaging actions.

Astrolabe wants you to withdraw this product and publish a disclaimer.
We will be legally following up on this and the sources. The fact that
the authors you have utilized publish their sources and cite ACS will
not sit well and is not an excuse for usage. This area is not about
academic material where simple citing of other people's work allows
reference. The providence of ownership of this material is well documented.

Thank you for your attention,
Gary Christen, President, Astrolabe, Inc.

-------

The reality is that when I visited Cape Cod, I was never told about any financial dealings involving the ACS Atlas. They wanted me to do tech support and possibly reformat the ACS database or have Ray White do it. But I was given no guarantees. They offered me 20% on sales of Delphic Oracle but saying not to expect much in the way of sales because it was a fringe market. Then they asked me to load my software onto one of their computers without an agreement in place in Oct 2008 and that is when I knew that I couldn't go through with it because I could have been fired or laid off without recourse 3 weeks later lacking access to even my own code.

I also have reason to believe that ACS was well aware of the existence of the Olson time zone database and they made no attempt to sue. It was one of their bragging rights saying that it was in use outside of the astrology industry as an indication of how accurate it was! I have not been able to locate this statement but it might still be on the waybackmachine for ACS (Astro Communications Services which should be astrocom.com).

Their goal is to keep myself and other astrology software developers from developing their own time zone databases in order to force us into their monopoly and maintain the supremacy of Solar Fire over other applications. The story is a long ugly one dating back to about 1995 with many attempts to steal my work, but the truth will come out and Arthur and myself will be vindicated.

Let me know if I can be of any help.

Sincerely,
Curtis Manwaring
CEO / software engineer
Zoidiasoft Technologies, LLC
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epurdue



Joined: 14 Nov 2007
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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think they can easily go out of business over this. They are basically fighting against the government, Google, IBM, and others.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As to how this can adversely affect the accuracy of time zone data in software, Astrolabe is a small company with a handful of employees, some of them part time. The former company ACS similarly only had a few employees.

By contrast, the Olson time zone community has about 500 researchers from areas all over the world according to Arthur Olson. They have scrutinized the data of ACS, comparing it to IATA SSIM (International Air Transportation Association - Standard Schedules Information Manual) and several other sources. Unix has been in use for decades and they have had a need for accurate time zone information for computer servers all over the world.

Because the Olson community vastly outnumbers the number of employees at Astrolabe, they are far more effective at spotting errors in the data. Steve Ferguson, had this to say about the data inaccuracy in the ACS Atlas (going in alphabetical order in the American Atlas state by state):

Quote:
"I have been working on my own Atlas since I too have found the ACS files to be hugely inaccurate and the company less than enthusiastic about my feedback on the errors I found... So far, I have gone through looking for table errors and now I am going through each state. I'm only up to Connecticut. Even still, between the table errors and the state errors I have been able to find so far, I am up to over 3200 errors. The biggest problem I have is verification, particularly older dates. I haven't started using the Olsen stuff yet though I intend to. I did send a good Alaska article I found to the time zone newsgroup. I've been using the Doris Doan book and even contacted the publisher (light.org) to see if any of her reference materials are still around since she died in 2004, but there is not any."


If corroboration by 500 researchers can be shut down, then what safety check will be in place to make sure the information is accurate? This is the reason why privatization of public information is so dangerous. It is also the reason why courts have not allowed facts to be copyrightable because if facts can be held hostage by the dollar, then the owner of those facts only needs to raise the price too high to prevent truth and justice from prevailing.

Quote:
"Objection your honor, the stated fact is owned by ____ Corporation, until the Court pays the royalty fee, we move that it be stricken from the record and that the jury disregard said testimony."

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zoidsoft



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mithra6 wrote:
I think they can easily go out of business over this. They are basically fighting against the government, Google, IBM, and others.


It occurred to me that Astrolabe might be able to "generously" let Olson off the hook with a settlement and no penalty in exchange for making their database private with royalties due to Astrolabe. I don't know if this is legally possible but it might be and I think that is the sort of path that would make the most sense in Astrolabe's case. Obviously if they stir the hornets nest too much, and get the whole world involved, (IBM, Sun Microsystems, etc) and they fight it, Astrolabe is history so I would expect for them to try to settle out of court by giving Olson a strong incentive not to fight the case by not penalizing him (or maybe even paying Olson to settle? - the court might have a problem with this). Astrolabe is really after the Terran Atlas.
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jventura



Joined: 04 Jan 2011
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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, I've been using Tz database for my upcoming desktop version of skyPlux, so I'm also interested in the outcome of this..

I don't know many things about laws, but I think that US legislation is not applicable in the rest of the world, so maybe if Tz servers are relocated to outside US, the case will not move forward..

Second, this is a open-source project, and so if someone "closes" this project, others will appear. There is a great community behind Olson Database, which feed the Database with yearly/monthly/daily info. Linux, Mac, WWW servers, and other opensource/commercial projects are all dependent on this, so an alternative will appear, no doubt about that!

Third, I think Alable is shooting itself in the foot with this. Their software is getting older, overly complex and unpolished, and with those kind of (un)"strategic" moves, it means that they are getting ready to go out of business, so, like a person getting drowned, they try to reach out for everything..

Finally, it is like David against Goliath, where Alabe is David, but the "good" guy is Goliath (opensource projects, community-based projects, Linux servers like 95% of world servers, Apple Mac OS X and iOS, Android phones, etc. etc. etc.).

So, I wouldn't worry too much. Maybe SolarFire et al. future ex-users should start to look at other good software out there, because after this, Alabe is history!


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jventura



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zoidsoft wrote:
Astrolabe is really after the Terran Atlas.


Are you selling such a great number of copies, or swimming in a lot of money? If you're not, then they are just plain stupid to fight a war which is lost from the start..
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zoidsoft



Joined: 10 Feb 2006
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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jventura wrote:
... I think that US legislation is not applicable in the rest of the world, so maybe if Tz servers are relocated to outside US, the case will not move forward..


One needs to keep in mind that Astrolabe's main product, Solar Fire, was created by Esoteric Technologies in Australia. I don't know if Australian copyright laws differ from the USA, but "sweat of the brow" arguments do apply in other areas of the world.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jventura wrote:
zoidsoft wrote:
Astrolabe is really after the Terran Atlas.


Are you selling such a great number of copies, or swimming in a lot of money? If you're not, then they are just plain stupid to fight a war which is lost from the start..


Hardly. I sold my Airstream trailer and live in the desert with my solar panel mounted to the top of my truck on BLM land a lot of the time with a roundup weed sprayer and evap pond for showers because rent is not a tax deduction, but gasoline can be when used for business (I live a very interesting life because of the IRS tax code). But it has improved sales of Delphic Oracle and Timaeus somewhat because the Terran Atlas is included.
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jventura



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zoidsoft wrote:
(I live a very interesting life because of the IRS tax code).


Very Happy

Meanwhile, i've seen your post in the Tz mailing list, so you should know by now that mirrors are being created, and the opensource community project is still alive. Injured, but alive! It is a matter of time that things get rolling again, but this time with (some) uncertainty of the future.

By my side, I'll keep using Tz database for my skyPlux app, for when ex-SolarFire users (and there will be many of them, this is for granted) arrive full of thirst, they will want plenty of water to drink.. Smile

Bottom line, by what I've read in the news websites out there, and in the subsequent comments, is that, unfortunately, this kind of stupid moves is only attracting bad publicity and rage towards astrology and astrologers.. The first response to your post in the tz db was like "What, this is being done by stupid astrologers?" People here don't realize, but this is very serious indeed..
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jventura wrote:
zoidsoft wrote:
(I live a very interesting life because of the IRS tax code).


Very Happy

Meanwhile, i've seen your post in the Tz mailing list, so you should know by now that mirrors are being created, and the opensource community project is still alive. Injured, but alive! It is a matter of time that things get rolling again, but this time with (some) uncertainty of the future.

By my side, I'll keep using Tz database, for when ex-SolarFire users (and there will be many of them, this is for granted) arrive full of thirst, they will want plenty of water to drink.. Smile


I don't think Solar Fire is likely to go out of business. They've made millions and astrologers continue getting upgrades to their software not realizing that the built in ACS Atlas is very error prone (see Steve Ferguson comment above).
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jventura wrote:
Bottom line, by what I've read in the news websites out there, and in the subsequent comments, is that, unfortunately, this kind of stupid moves is only attracting bad publicity and rage towards astrology and astrologers.. The first response to your post in the tz db was like "What, this is being done by stupid astrologers?" People here don't realize, but this is very serious indeed..


Do you have a link?
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jventura



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zoidsoft wrote:
Do you have a link?


http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.time.tz/4169 [the response to your post at the TZ mailing list]
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/10/06/1743226/civil-suit-filed-involving-the-time-zone-database [the link you've written previously]

The last one has comments like:
- "Maybe they ran a prediction and it told them they would win.",
- "Wait, wait, they're an ASTROLOGY company, not ASTRONOMY?! What, did their crystal ball tell them they'd win in court?"
- "I can't help you there but I've got a hot time from their website, it's a good time to meet females! [about a free service at alabe.com]"
- more "pearls" among the almost 400 comments! Confused
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jventura



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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More reactions from http://www.thedailyparker.com/PermaLink,guid,c5f28bae-4b9c-41ea-b7b7-8891ad63c938.aspx

* Is data about when time zone rules changed throughout history protected under copyright?
* If so, who owns it?
* If someone owns it, is the Olson database a derivative work under copyright law?
* If the Olson database does, in fact, derive from the work in question, is it a fair use?
* Just how stupid are these astrologists, anyway?


More comments at http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111006/11532316235/astrolabe-claims-it-holds-copyright-timezone-data-sues-maintainers-public-timezone-database.shtml#comments

* I say grats to astrolabe's lawyers for wasting a lot of their money so they can't continue with their batshit insane charlatanism (i.e. astrology) which is entirely made up bullshit designed to steal money from the mentall weak and vulnerable.
* The inferior people who believe in astrology aren't really human: they're primates. Their inadequate brains should be discarded when their organs are harvested for use by members of superior species.
* Or you could just boycott their astrology software because astrology is imaginary.
* Or just not be stupid and not believe in astrology.


And I'll stop here.. So much bad publicity for a stupid thing! Oh well.. Confused
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