Does NextBus Own Real-Time Muni Data?

Picture_2.pngCourtesy: SF Appeal
Last week I tried to download the real-time transit data application Routesy from the Apple Store, only to find that the Store didn't carry it. Some friends had recommended the application as an improvement over iBART and iMuni, which only provide the static schedules published by the transit operators, not real-time data. I wasn't too pressed to find the application at the time, though, so I didn't investigate further and didn't realize there is a very interesting story behind why Apple yanked the app from the store.

The SF Appeal yesterday published an excellent story about a financial and licensing battle raging over proprietary control of real-time Muni data, one that pits the Routesy developer against a subsidiary of NextBus, NextBus Information Systems (NBIS), which claims rights to Muni real-time data. (SF Weekly also ran a detailed story about this today.)

From SF Appeal, NBIS wrote in an email to Apple:

We demand that you do not approve any updates for the App Store application "Routesy" until the application developer has licensed the NextBus real-time prediction data from us, or removes the use of NextBus data from his application. As I have mentioned numerous times in our previous discussions, NextBus Information Systems Inc. is the sole agent for commercial use of the NextBus real-time prediction data in the United States and has exclusive rights to distribution of this data to mobile phones. The Routesy application downloads and republishes this copyrighted data which is damaging to us.

Problem is, the MTA doesn't think its real-time Muni data is proprietary, nor that anyone should be making it more difficult to get access to that data. MTA Spokesperson Judson True said that Muni owns the data in question and that the public should have access to it. He went further to say that Muni is trying to make their real-time data more accessible to the public, not less.

Check out the article and come back here to tell us what you think. I'm intrigued to see what comes of this situation.