Time zone database has new home after lawsuit

Oct 16, 2011 By ANICK JESDANUN , AP Technology Writer

The organization in charge of the Internet's address system is taking over a database widely used by computers and websites to keep track of time zones around the world.

The transition to the , or ICANN, comes a week after the was abruptly removed from a U.S. government server because of a claiming .

Without this database and others like it, computers would display Greenwich Mean , or the time in London when it isn't on summer time. People would have to manually calculate local time when they schedule meetings or book flights.

The Time Zone Database allows people to set clocks simply by choosing a city. Select New York, for example, and the computer will know that it is normally five hours behind London, but four hours during a brief period when the U.S. is still on summer time and Britain is not.

The database is updated more than a dozen times a year and is used by a range of computer operating systems including Apple Inc.'s , ., Unix and Linux, but not Microsoft Corp.'s Windows.

It's also used by several websites that tell people what the current time is around the world, or what time it will be in Sydney or Moscow next Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Los Angeles. Some non-Internet functions, such as calendar software, also incorporate the database.

Although those functions continued to work after the database disappeared from the government's server, computer systems couldn't get updates to reflect changes in time zones and in the duration of summer time.

Kim Davies, a technical manager at ICANN, said that because much of the Internet depends on the database, its management by ICANN is consistent with the organization's mission to maintain a stable Internet.

One of ICANN's main functions is to coordinate - the suffixes such as ".com" and ".org" in Internet addresses. Those are key for allowing computers to find websites and route email.

ICANN has been in discussions for months about taking over the database with the impending retirement of its longtime coordinator. Arthur David Olson, an employee of the National Institutes of Health who volunteered as coordinator as a side project, began looking for a new home for the database in 2009.

ICANN accelerated those discussions and took over management Friday after the database was removed from NIH's server on Oct. 6, following a lawsuit over historical data used.

Astrology software company Astrolabe Inc. argues that Olson and another volunteer at University of California, Los Angeles should have paid royalties for including data from its software. The defendants have insisted that the data are in the public domain and not subject to copyright. Their employers were not named as defendants.

The federal lawsuit, filed Sept. 30 in Boston, does not affect current time zone information, which comes from tips sent by volunteers through an email list.

However, ICANN is keeping the historical information in the database.

"We are aware of the lawsuit," Davies said. "We believe it's important to continue the operation of the database. We'll deal with any legal matters as they arise."

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More information: Time zone database: http://www.iana.org/time-zones

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User comments : 7

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gwrede
5 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2011
I get so sad reading this stuff. Even as protesters occupy Wall Street, lawyers seek to develop money off of just anything. I fear for America.
grosyhpgrosyhpgrosyhp
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2011
Astrology software company Astrolabe Inc. argues

One more reason to hate pseudo-science bastards
_etabeta_
5 / 5 (4) Oct 16, 2011
It is beyond my comprehension how a company that sells useless astrology crapware can get away with doing this. Something is way wrong with copyright and patent laws in the US. And who is paying for all this useless litigation? All of us! Copyright and patent trolls must burn in hell, along with their lawyers.
TheQuietMan
5 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2011
Yeah, one of my favorite websites is now gone as a consequence. It is what I used to keep all my clocks on track.

http://www.time.gov

Now it is gone.

Reminds me of a recent story I read about Intellectual Ventures on PBS. They specialize in suing people over software. They create nothing, just litigate, and have a dozen or so shill organizations who do the same thing to keep it unobvious. This is more of the same.
Mike_Syzygy
not rated yet Oct 17, 2011
But time.gov works fine, it's not gone. :)

david13579
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2011
But time.gov works fine, it's not gone. :)


It was there a moment ago and now it's gone
TheQuietMan
not rated yet Oct 17, 2011
They did mention the Daylight Savings data is public domain, I suspect they are finding another database, or making one from scratch. Way to go guys!

At the moment it is up again.

Correction, it is half way up. The site comes up, but no time is displayed. I suspect someone is working the issue.

As for that other organization, I can only hope they are slapped down for a frivolous lawsuit.