StationStops iPhone application. The popular blogger created an $2.99 application that gives commuters access to MTA train and bus schedules. He received a DMCA last Friday to remove the application from the app store The MTA claims that its scheduling information is copyrighted intellectual property. You read that right. Public train schedules are being treated as copyrighted material.
In an interview with the Stamford Advocate Schoenfeld said, "The copyright law is very clear that you cannot copyright facts and tables of data. A train schedule itself might be considered intellectual property, but the data itself has nothing artistic about it." Schoenfeld believes the DMCA came as a result of him delaying licensing negotiations. The blogger was expected to pay the MTA 10% of his app profits and $5000 in advance royalties.
StationStops is an iPhone application that allows Metro-North Railroad riders to check their train departures and arrivals from Grand Central Station even when they do not have a wireless connection. The application remembers a user's home station and offers both train track numbers and departures. While these are simple functions, the MTA does not have this data readily accessible. Rather than having to wait at Grand Central's departure screens, riders with the iPhone app are free to relax until their train arrives. Essentially StationStops is a 3rd party application that does a better job of information outreach than the official public entity.
The MTA's cease and desist letter comes at a time when government agencies and semi-public entities are slowly carving out their policies on standardized public data. In late June, even as Mayor Bloomberg launched the first NYC Big Apps contest committing to the publication of machine readable city data, Council's application to expose raw data for web and mobile app development was denied. In an interview with PolitickerNY assistant counselor to the mayor, Sami Naim spoke out against releasing the data saying, "It's not how much paper you can put up on the Internet. It's more, how much can you engage New Yorkers. It starts and ends with the customer."
Judging by StationStop sales and the public outcry for Schoenfeld, customers want a better way to access their transportation information and they don't care whether it's city-run, state-run or citizen-driven. To see more user-generated transportation solutions, visit DIY City or Apps for Democracy.