Via a pingback ostensibly made by Astrology-X-Files (and maybe even Curtis Manwaring himself, no less!), this news about Astrolabe at Tech Dirt, where they’ve just filed suit against the maintainers of the public-domain Olson time zone database that is used in just about every open-source time zone related project imaginable:
Astrolabe apparently bought the rights to the database from The American Atlas, which is cited as a source in the [Olson] timezone database. But… there’s a problem: you can’t copyright facts. And it’s difficult to see how this information is anything but factual. We have the full legal filing embedded below, but the best analysis comes from The Daily Parker’s Dave Braverman who breaks down the legal issues as follows:
- 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?
Of course, I’m pretty sure the answer to question (1) is no, which would answer all the rest of the questions, except for the final one.
This raises another, more interesting question than whether astrologers are jackasses: if you maintain a history book (e.g. a “reference work”), and someone refers to that history book while making a work predicated on facts about history, can the owners of the history book claim copyright violation just because you pointed them back to that specific book? Should you have, instead, simply referred to the historical events without citing where you got them, since those facts about history are not actually copyrighted to anyone? Isn’t there copyright law specifically pertaining to reference works?
Either way, I’m looking forward to these astrologers getting ground into dust. The Groklaw commentariat have already picked up on it, and I can’t wait to see what PJ herself has to say once the answer to the complaint hits the intertubes.