MTA Backing Down on Free Use of Train Schedules, Letters

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Last month we noticed a guy who'd created an iPhone app for Metro-North schedules was embroiled in a copyright/fair use dispute with the MTA. The Authority wanted big bucks to provide him with information he was loading more efficiently himself. Now Chris Schoenfeld, creator of StationStops, seems off the hook -- as may be other developers who want to put train info on your phone.

The New York Times says "a longstanding fight against a Greenwich, Conn., commuter, who created an application with Metro-North Railroad schedules, suddenly ended with no money changing hands." And though his blog doesn't mention it, Schoenfeld's Twitter feed announced on the 22nd, "ITS OVER! CONGRATULATIONS TO MTA FOR PEACEFULLY ENDING THEIR LEGAL BATTLE WITH STATIONSTOPS!"...

The fees MTA had been demanding of another man who made an LIRR schedule app are being withdrawn, too. MTA says it's just "trying to evolve," but the Times suggests "pressure from politicians and technology advocates" were at play. Other cities have cooperated with developers on similar apps, and in June Mayor Bloomberg started a contest, inviting techies to put public city data into software applications. (Maybe soon you'll be able to download David Yassky's "It's Your Money" info to your phone, so the next time you're outraged by a city agency you can see how much money they got to serve you so poorly.)

Try as we might, we can't find a downside to this trend. It's even got Schoenfeld and San Francisco's Joe Moore -- who was battling New York's MTA, which apparently thought it owned all colored dots with letters in them, over the right to twit his local system with t-shirt logos like "L-ate," and won -- blogging about things besides their legal struggles, like a coffee machine in Schoenfeld's case, and business team best practices in Moore's. Well, okay, maybe it's not all good.

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