[Open-transport] Public Transport schedules in Europe: legal question

Stefan Kaufmann transit at shutterworks.org
Thu Oct 9 14:55:43 UTC 2014

On 09.10.2014 14:49, Pieter Colpaert wrote:

> A legal question: are public transit schedules copyrightable?

I came across that same question during research for my diploma thesis 
(shameless plug: http://dbis.eprints.uni-ulm.de/1054/) and found that 
several German transit agencies and transit service providers had 
already tackled the issue as far as German Urheberrecht was concerned. 
The relevant paper is FoPS 70825, „Eigentums- und Nutzungsrechte im 
öffentlichen Verkehr“ by Gennaro et al, and the final report has since 
been published (albeit in German), at 

> 1. Copyright
> Has there been a "creative" aspect to these schedules?
>   → One could say yes from the urban planning perspective: the team that
> created the optimal schedule for that situation has created a time
> schedule that can be copyrighted
>   → One could say no from the customer informing perspective: the data
> are a logical consequence of vehicles arriving and leaving.

FoPS 70825 takes the latter point of view: Information on stop location 
is nothing else than an observeable datum, with no creative effort 
whatsoever going into its collection or aggregation. I would also 
disagree on your urban planning perspective: This “optimal schedule” is 
often a result of land use and ridership pattern information. Different 
schedulers would likely end up with at least a similar schedule.

> 2. Sui generis
> When compiling a database with the time schedules, there is an
> investment made. Yet, that investment is needed in any case as they need
> it to operate their public transport network. So there is no sui generis
> law applicable?

Unlikely in the most basic form, i.e., the “pure” schedule data. Gennaro 
et al argue that in its most “refined” form, i.e., the dataset used for 
giving that totally _perfect_ schedule information that (in their 
opinion) only the German transit authorities themselves can provide, sui 
generis database rights _might_ apply.

This might also be the reason why German agencies (and, leading them on, 
VDV) keep pushing so called “open services” instead of open data. (A 
misnomer, by the way. Nothing about those services is “open”).

> When in doubt, it seems good to choose the best option for our case,
> which is saying: public transit schedules cannot be protected. This is
> also the case for for instance the white pages or the results of a lottery.
> If agreed, we should make a strong statement with Open Knowledge Open
> Transport, and for instance, make sure the question "are transport
> timetables openly licensed?" in the census
> (http://global.census.okfn.org/) dissapears.

ACK with the strong statement. Timetables should, at most, have a 
Zero-license attached to them, just for informational purposes. I just 
don't see anything of this happening within German transit authorities 
for the near future, though.

Maybe we should just pull a Michael Kreil on them, scraping the data and 
dumping it on the web? Any input? And if so, would any of you be willing 
to make this a focus issue for OpenCityCamp in Stuttgart this November? 
I wanted to have a transport track at OCC, anyways :D (Disclosure: I am 
an organizer of that event).


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