Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New York Transportation Authority sues iPhone developer over schedule information

In a sign that the discussion over what public data should be public is ongoing, the New York Times has reported that the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority has issued a takedown notice to an iPhone developer who has used train schedules in his iPhone application.

The Authority claims that public train schedule data is its intellectual property - similar to the claim by NSW Rail when it issued four takedown notices against application developers reusing NSW rail timetable data in March this year.

In this case, however, the Authority is seeking to profit off licensing the information for distribution - despite providing it for free. This was because the iPhone application maker was charging US$2.49 for his application, which he says is merely to cover the costs of producing the application.

Note that the Authority is not completely government-owned, however is paid by US governments to operate a public service, which might become an interesting area of debate in future regarding date in the public interest generated by public-private partnerships such as tollways, utilities (ActewAGL for example) and Job Network members. Even access to postcode geodata in Australia might become a consideration.

If the government contracts a third party to provide a service, should part of that arrangement include ensuring that all public data generated is made available to the public?

I think it will be a discussion we'll need to have in the next year.

It will be interesting to see how the New York situation is resolved - particularly considering the level of negative media attention the Authority has been receiving.


  1. "Hi:

    Two things

    1) I’d like your permission to (re)print your article on ‘Medium’ for our website

    2) I was hoping we could use your ‘scribing’ talent for our website.

    The Best Shows Youre Not Watching (dot) com [all one word]
    ‘Medium’s one of our featured shows. We’re hoping to round up a few people who can occasionally contribute perspective (via an article/blog) on the shows – maybe a recent episode, future direction, plot shortcomings etc.

    What’s in it for you?
    Primarily a larger audience back channeled to your blog. We don’t pay but the site has a lot of promise and we're pretty excited about getting it off the ground. Let me know what you think.


  2. Reminds me of the copyright battles over TV guides ...

  3. Hi TbsYnw,

    My blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License which allows non-commercial sharing and remixing of my posts, provided I am attributed. So go ahead.

    Given I've never written about Medium and don't watch the program I don't see the relevance, but that's your call.

    I'm not interested in writing for other sites at the moment. I have enough on right now!