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Skyscript Astrology Forum

Astrolabe vs Arthur Olson et al lawsuit
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zoidsoft



Joined: 10 Feb 2006
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Location: Pulaski, NY

Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb,

The above was already posted right here in this forum on the 2nd page of this thread.
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jventura



Joined: 04 Jan 2011
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Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Astrolabe Press Release on lawsuit Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
I must admit some of the details of this case are outside my own understanding, but this is turning into an event of widespread media concern. It seems only fair to present Astrolabe's side of the story. The following is a statement released by them which I am also publishing outside the forum on this link:
http://skyscript.co.uk/astrolabe.html


Yes, as Curtis said, I've already published that email here on the forum.. But to be even fairer (for all people who have contributed their own time for a project without ever receiveing a penny), read this follow-up at http://www.thedailyparker.com/PermaLink,guid,103d30f9-4d58-4b72-9f5a-8db45ed8a641.aspx
It presents very good points for each paragraph of that email..
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Deb
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Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, I didn't realise it had been previously published in this forum. Thanks for pointing that out. I received a copy of this by email with the request that it is published as a statement. May as well leave it, as it won't do any harm. The problem with the rebuttal in the link above is that it is emotive. If the points are well made there is no need to resort to ridicule whilst purporting to offer expertise on legal matters. I note the criticism comes from a software developer though, not an expert on copyright law.

From my very limited understanding I would have supposed that the case hinges on one point only. Is that database copyrighted or not? Astrolabe's argument is that it is and royalties are due to the main developers of it. If that's true then why should it matter that big corporations have used it and will be in a mess without it? I suppose they are ones best placed to pay royalties if royalties are due.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
Sorry, I didn't realise it had been previously published in this forum. Thanks for pointing that out. I received a copy of this by email with the request that it is published as a statement. May as well leave it, as it won't do any harm. The problem with the rebuttal in the link above is that it is emotive. If the points are well made there is no need to resort to ridicule whilst purporting to offer expertise on legal matters. I note the criticism comes from a software developer though, not an expert on copyright law.


Actually David Braverman was a law student at Brooklyn Law School and Loyola University Chicago School of Law (in addition to being a skeptic of astrology) so it would be good to see past the emotive response to get at the facts since he was trained to do so:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-braverman/4/373/b52

But the real issue here is that ICANN / IANA has taken Olson's side as evidenced by the fact that they are maintaining the Olson tz database knowing full well about the Boston court's injunction:

http://www.iana.org/time-zones

Which suggests that Astrolabe's case is very weak. It Astrolabe had a case, I doubt they would support Olson's position because it would embroil them in controversy.
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AloisT



Joined: 19 Oct 2011
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Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
I would have supposed that the case hinges on one point only. Is that database copyrighted or not? Astrolabe's argument is that it is and royalties are due to the main developers of it.


Sorry to contradict you on this, Deborah.

To understand the case one has to look at the actual data and one has to make an effort to know and understand them. Without having looked at them, one may speculate, but effectively one cannot contribute to the discussion.

The case does not depend on the fact whether a complete database is copyrighted or not. Olson and Eggert have not used or copied any database.

The have used a few facts from published books. In each case of use, they have weighted and judged them against facts published in other reference works.

The ACS atlas consists to 97% of lists of town names with longitudes and latitudes and of assignments of these towns to a particular timezone history table.

The timezone history tables themselves make up about 3% of the ACS books. Of the timezone history tables, about 99% of the information was taken out of other previous publications. They do not consist of original creation, but of copies form other data.

The tz database by Olson and Eggert does not give ANY assignments of cities to timezone areas. This means they have taken nothing from the main part of the ACS books.

From the timezone history information published in the ACS books Olson and Eggert have taken some facts. They have not taken any of the ACS chosen representation. In fact, Olson has created a far superior representation of timezone history information, which is many times superior to the system of data representation created by ACS.

[side note of me as a computer expert: I do not blame Thomas Shanks, the programmer, for having chosen an inferior system of data representation. Computational power and storage was much more expensive and limited at the time of his work than later, at the time of Olson's work. Olson could use techniques of data representation which were computationally too expensive for Shanks. The maintainers of the ACS database can learn a lot from him, and they should. Olson's work is in the public domain, i.e. free to use for anybody, even without quoting him.]

In the Olson database, on can express facts like
'end daylight saving time on the last Sunday of October at 2 am local time, each year until the end of history'.

In the ACS tables, one would need to know the date of the last sunday in October for each year, and for each country with a different local time, one would have to make a separate table. The ACS tables need twenty or fifty times the space, compared to tzdata, to express the same facts, for this simple rule.

So, Olson and Eggert have used a few data out of a collection which was assembled by ACS out of other publications. Olson and Eggert have created a totally different and much superior representation of these very data. This is within the law, not only in the rather liberal US (in respect to data copyright), but also within the stricter laws of most European countries.

If somebody does not want anyone to use the facts he has collected, he should not PUBLISH them. Facts are not protected by copyright.

The legal case of Astrolabe against Olson and Eggert (and any other user or contributor to the free tzdata project) decays to zero. zero point zero.

Of course, Astrolabe is free to sell the PC Atlas, and to pay its original authors, who created it, some royalties. It is probably obliged to. But this does not mean that it owns the facts, which by their nature are public information.
The courts will show this.


Last edited by AloisT on Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:32 pm; edited 4 times in total
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AloisT



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Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zoidsoft wrote:

Actually David Braverman was a law student at Brooklyn Law School and Loyola University Chicago School of Law


He not only was a law student, he holds a doctor's degree in law, as far as I have understood from his bio.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AloisT wrote:
zoidsoft wrote:

Actually David Braverman was a law student at Brooklyn Law School and Loyola University Chicago School of Law


He not only was a law student, he holds a doctor's degree in law, as far as I have understood from his bio.


It looks like he holds a JD (Juris Doctor - Doctor of Jurisprudence). In any case 7 years of law school is no layman.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David Braverman has posted his legal analysis of the case:

http://www.thedailyparker.com/PermaLink,guid,0bd3ac50-215e-4556-9c5c-9a06733c98a3.aspx

This is a less emotive response that deals directly with the facts.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There has been a development in the case... The EFF issues warning to Astrolabe:

http://www.voxy.co.nz/business/eff-demands-withdrawal-bogus-lawsuit/5/112294
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Tom
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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This is a less emotive response that deals directly with the facts.


I don't know about less emotive, but I have no reason to doubt the facts as presented and it was fun to read.
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AloisT



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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the timely link, Curtis. You are fast.

I hope Astrolabe finally gets it and follows the request of the EFF lawyers.

"It's a fundamental principle of copyright law that facts are not copyrightable, and Astrolabe should have known that was all the researchers took from the atlas. Today, EFF has asked for Astrolabe to officially withdraw the lawsuit or face a motion for sanctions.
...
The law requires litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and the law before filing a lawsuit like this," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "It's clear Astrolabe never did that basic research. The result was a frivolous lawsuit that left computer users all over the world without an important resource that keeps computers working accurately and efficiently."

Friday 13th for Astrolabe?
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handn



Joined: 02 Nov 2009
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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello

The way I see it, the problem is that if they're going to refer to the globe (as they do) then they can't expect that the globe follows the legal concepts and legislation of the USA, and they can't speak with one voice about the globe based on the laws of the United States of America. They don't apply. The same goes for ethics and morals and general ways of doing things, which all vary from country to country.

Personally, I think the raw time zone data should have, from the outset, been collated by national libraries or somesuch on behalf of the people, and thenceforth belonged to the people as a whole, being made freely available for anyone to use and stored in central national repositories, however that wasn't the situation as it stood from country to country and at different points in time, and the fact is that Astrolabe put a lot of work in at the coalface.

Astrolabe deserve more respectful treatment for their contribution to the field of data collection, no matter how many errors their database may or may not have (I'm not in a position to know since I don't own their relevant software), and I'm not very impressed with what has regularly and from various quarters come across as testosterone-fuelled battling and finger-pointing, in place of mature adults reaching a sensible agreement.

Regards

H.
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GR



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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Handn,

Don't believe it's possible to copyright facts either here in the USA or elsewhere. Also, the USA is a signatory to international treaties regarding copyright.

This situation wouldn't have gotten to this point if Astrolabe didn't engage in a bad lawsuit to attack Curtis specifically.
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Tom
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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Personally, I think the raw time zone data should have, from the outset, been collated by national libraries or somesuch on behalf of the people,


This information can be obtained from the US census bureau and, of all places the CIA, for free. This is explained in the article Curtis linked to.
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zoidsoft



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Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

handn wrote:
Astrolabe deserve more respectful treatment for their contribution to the field of data collection, no matter how many errors their database may or may not have (I'm not in a position to know since I don't own their relevant software), and I'm not very impressed with what has regularly and from various quarters come across as testosterone-fuelled battling and finger-pointing, in place of mature adults reaching a sensible agreement.


??? What quarters specifically?

It is certainly accurate that Neil Michelsen el al put a great deal of work into gathering time zone data and they should be honored for that, but that isn't the issue here. "Sweat of the brow" arguments do not apply according to US copyright law. I think it is more accurate to say that Astrolabe shot itself in the foot in its attempt to stifle my commercial freedom to create.

The EFF has made the situation more explicit:

https://www.eff.org/cases/astrolabe-v-olson

And in particular:
https://www.eff.org/sites/default/files/filenode/LTTMolloy.pdf

Explains clearly how Astrolabe has damaged the technology industry by attacking a resource that has been around since 1986.

In case you think this is merely cosmetic, keep in mind that the encryption on your cell phone (keeping your personal files scrambled as sent to your iPad's, etc - very odd that this happened the day after Steve Jobs died) only works because the "time is correct" as established by the Olson time zone database in these applications. So yes, there has been a major backlash from the rest of the technology industry (if that's what you mean by what I highlighted in bold). The 500 or so time zone researchers from the Olson database community not only made their research publicly available, but made their sources available as well making verification of accuracy easier to establish.

I think even the star of Ares himself has enough sense to retreat at this point (which it will by the 24th of this month).
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