San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has demanded the withdrawal of a bogus copyright infringement lawsuit against the operators of a database of time zone information relied on by software engineers across the globe.

Last September, an astrology software company called Astrolabe filed the suit against Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert, the researchers who coordinated the database's development for decades. Astrolabe claimed that its copyrights were infringed, because the database relies in part on information in an atlas in which Astrolabe claims to own copyright. Notified of the threat, Olsen took the database offline, leaving users and developers without a critical tool to determine local time for time-stamping emails and other files.

EFF signed on to defend both researchers against this absurd lawsuit. It's a fundamental principle of copyright law that facts are not copyrightable, and Astrolabe should have known that was all the researchers took from the atlas. Today, EFF has asked for Astrolabe to officially withdraw the lawsuit or face a motion for sanctions.

"The law requires litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and the law before filing a lawsuit like this," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "It's clear Astrolabe never did that basic research. The result was a frivolous lawsuit that left computer users all over the world without an important resource that keeps computers working accurately and efficiently."

The database is now back online. But this case underscores how bogus copyright infringement claims can interfere with the underpinning of technological tools we rely on every day.

"Developers depend on this tool to help your computer run correctly no matter what time zone you are in," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "This essential public resource was put at risk by a ridiculous lawsuit that should never have been filed. We're calling on Astrolabe to do the right thing and withdraw its complaint."

The law firm of Fish & Richardson is assisting EFF in this case.

For the full letter to Astrolabe:

For more on this case:


Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Mitch Stoltz
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation