The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce that a copyright lawsuit threatening an important database of time zone information has been dismissed. The astrology software company that filed the lawsuit, Astrolabe, has also apologized and agreed to a
'covenant not to sue' going forward, which will help protect the database from future baseless legal actions and disruptions.
Software engineers around the world depend on the time zone database to make sure that time-stamps for email and other files work correctly no matter where you are. However, last September, Astrolabe filed a lawsuit against Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert - the researchers who coordinated the database's development for decades -
because the database includes information from an atlas in which Astrolabe claimed to own copyright. But facts - like what time the sun rises - are not copyrightable. EFF, along with co-counsel Adam Kessel and Olivia Nguyen at the Boston office of Fish & Richardson P.C, promptly signed on to defend Olson and Eggert and protect this essential tool.
In January, EFF advised Astrolabe that Olson and Eggert would move for sanctions if Astrolabe did not withdraw its complaint. Today's dismissal followed.
In a statement, Astrolabe said, "Astrolabe's lawsuit against Mr. Olson and Mr. Eggert was based on a flawed understanding of the law. We now recognize that historical facts are no one's property and, accordingly, are withdrawing our Complaint. We deeply regret the disruption that our lawsuit caused for the volunteers who maintain the TZ database, and for Internet users."
"It's a fundamental principle of copyright law that facts are not copyrightable, and Astrolabe should have known that," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "While the lawsuit should never have been filed, we're pleased that the legal threat to an important resource has been eliminated.
"We are grateful that EFF and its co-counsel at Fish & Richardson were able to step in and assist us, so that we could help ensure the TZ database would continue to be available," said Eggert and Olson.
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