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Astrolabe backs off, timezone database safe

You can’t copyright facts

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When you next tell a friend what time tomorrow’s sunrise is expected, you can do so without worrying whether you need to field a lawsuit. US horoscope software company Astrolabe has withdrawn the lawsuit which last year saw the Unix timezone database shuttered.

The lawsuit accused David Olsen, custodian of the Time Zone and Daylight Saving Time Database, of copyright infringement, along with Paul Eggert. The pair had coordinated the database for decades, as a service to the Internet community.

Astrolabe had accused them of copyright infringement because the database included information from an atlas which Astrolabe claimed as its own.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation took up their case on the basis that facts aren’t copyrightable, and has announced that Astrolabe has acquiesced.

The company says its lawsuit “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.”

Astrolabe has also apologized to the two, and has agreed to a “covenant not to sue”, protecting the database against the lawsuit being revived. Eggert and Olsen have thanked the EFF and its co-counsel at Fish & Richardson for helping “ensure that TZ database would continue to be available”. ®

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