The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has changed its mind about how third-party app developers can use some of its data, and therefore one iPhone app is now back available for download.
Previously, the MTA considered its train and bus schedules as copyrighted intellectual property, and demanded fees from developers who used its timetables in their apps. In August, we wrote about how Chris Schoenfeld had to take his StationStops iPhone app down when the two parties failed to agree on licensing terms.
But in a sudden change of mind, the MTA has dropped the case, and the StationStops app is back on Apple’s app store.
“Apple reinstated the app this week in response to a priority request from the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority which retracted its previous intellectual property claims against the application,” says Schoenfeld. There was no monetary or other compensation involved in the settlement.
When StationStops was taken off the app store, bloggers, activists, lawyers, and commuters stepped up to support Schoenfeld, as his case aptly represented the MTA’s bellicose attitude towards developers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tim O’Reilly and NYC Councilwoman Gale Brewer were among the supporters.
Finally, the MTA seems to be paying attention to what’s being said, and says it intends to be more supportive of developers:
NYTimes: “It’s clearly an emerging area, and we’re going to keep trying to evolve to keep up with it,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the authority.
The authority said its core policy had not changed: it asks for fees only if developers use copyrighted material like the round symbols for subway routes.
As the market for mobile apps evolves, there is a greater focus on relevant and useful apps that help citizens make sense of city data and public records. Any government that resists use of its data will risk being viewed as backward.
The MTA’s fresh attitude represents how the city is now embracing the mobile revolution. New York City recently opened up 170 datasets from 30 agencies to developers with the launch of its NYC BigApps competition.