Who Owns The Train Schedule?
One would think the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would want commuters to be able to access schedule information from a variety of sources. One would be wrong.
Schoenfeld recently reported that the MTA demanded that he cease and desist selling the iPhone app. That demand was made after Schoenfeld balked at an MTA request for 10% of proceeds on sales, with an advance of $5,000. The transportation authority characterizes the payment as a licensing fee -- as if the fact that a train leaves Stamford, Conn. at 7:07 a.m. every weekday and arrives at Grand Central Terminal 48 minutes later is worthy of copyright protection.
Today, Schoenfeld reports that he's in talks with the MTA and that the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has contacted him about the situation.
Meanwhile, MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz told the Stamford Advocate last week that the agency is afraid that Schoenfeld could distribute incorrect information, which would then leave the MTA fielding calls from irate commuters.
Regardless, Schoenfeld's site clearly states it's not affiliated with the MTA. People who rely on his iPhone app obviously do so at their own risk. If the information he distributes turns out to be wrong, the MTA can pursue whatever legal options it has at that time. But the fear that someone will post incorrect data doesn't give the MTA the right to stop that publication in advance. And it certainly doesn't transform cold, hard facts into the types of creative works that are protected by copyright laws.