JC Decaux should backpedal on iPhone app threat

[Cross-posted from IT Law in Ireland]

I’m quoted in today’s Irish Times on the threats made by JC Decaux against Fusio resulting in their taking down their Dublin Bikes App.

Leave aside for a moment the PR stupidity of this strategy.

Ignore if you will the dubious legal basis of their claim. (Without going into the finer points of copyright in facts, database rights, clickwrap agreements or possible passing off, the vague nature of their complaint – “Following our conversion, I confirm that you do not have the rights to use the information published on the web site http://www.dublinbikes.ie/. In particular the data concerning the stations is the property of JCDecaux and cannot be used without our prior authorisation” – makes it clear that they have little idea what they are talking about.)

Think instead about the issue of principle. A body which is operating in partnership with Dublin City Council is attempting to stop an Irish company from providing – free of charge – facts to the public about the service which they offer, without giving any justification for doing so, and without offering an alternative of their own. (I’m happy to see that at least some of our politicians understand the absurdity of this.)

I spoke to the press office in Dublin City Council today, who made it clear that they regard this matter as nothing to do with them. But why not? DCC were happy to work with Fusio to develop the app. Is there no provision in their contract with JCD establishing an obligation to provide information to the public about the service? Will they make sure that future contracts address this type of situation? (And – while I’m on the topic of the contract – why does JCD own the domain dublinbikes.ie? Is there any provision in the contract for the domain to revert to DCC on its expiry?)

– TJ

[Update – since initially posting this I have asked DCC for a copy of any correspondence with JCD over this issue and with any relevant portions of their contract with JCD. This seems to be an issue where JCD would be likely to reverse their stance if pressure were applied (one would hope they understand the risks of bad publicity!) – and where an important point of principle about reuse of data could be established. You may wish to email JCD at info@jcdecaux.ie; you can find contact details for your local councilors here.]