Recently a court ruling went through in Australia which , by itself, wasn’t a massive major, but it was enough to make the news. A website called ‘Local Directories‘ was taken to court by a company called Sensis which is a subsidiary of Telstra Clear because they copied the data from the Yellow and White pages of their directory services and then put it on their website.
The court ruled that whilst the databases on both sites was identical, it wasn’t owned by Sensis, and they did not create it (ie it was not an original works) and so they could not copyright it. The Judgement was “None of the Works were original. None of the people said to be authors of the Works exercised “independent intellectual effort” or “sufficient effort of a literary nature” in creating the Works.”
This made me curious and brought me back 10 years ago when a databases did the rounds in NZ containing a CSV rip of the NZ phone book. It was incomplete and only contained Auckland phone numbers, and more than one person (off the record) laid claim to doing the original scrape/rip.
I’m guessing most people are thinking ‘this is all very benign’ and ‘what’s the big deal’ about now, hang on, i’m getting there. What if somebody now took the data from the phone book, and let you search by street name, suburb, or even phone number (reverse phone book anyone?). According to this new ruling, not a heck of a lot!
So to try a proof of concept i hunted about and found that old Auckland rip from 10 years ago, imported it into the database, munged the data so no names/addresses/phone numbers matched up correctly and put it on the web. You can see that here http://velofille.com/phbook/ . I see that http://www.whitepages.com/ provides a reverse phone number lookup already (search the number, find the address), which is a little dodgy, however this is only for USA by the looks.
Now, are you beginning to see the problem with the court ruling? Whilst its great to finally track down who owns that number who calls you at 3am and hangs up or does deep breathing, or even ringing all your neighbours on the street when the music is too loud. What happens when salesmen decide to cold call an entire suburb? or the creepy guy next door rings you to tell you he can see you through the gap in the curtain? What happens when this information is used for something not so nice?
Whilst this originally was an Australian ruling, and Australian problem, much like internet filtering and a lot of other things, these things have a way of happening in NZ. Already Yellow Pages are taking Auckland company Image Marketing Group (IMG) to court saying it obtained details of over 300,000 businesses from the Yellow Pages and re-sold the information via its own products.
Now, in my mind, and in a perfect world, surely *i* own the right to my own personal data, in which case surely they have to pay *me* to use it on their website in the first place? There is no one major company any more doing only phone and yellow/white pages any more, I can have my phone provided from one place, and white/yellow pages is now an independent company. So this led me to wonder ‘who is paying for this information?’ .
Also, I see that in their Terms of service page they state “You are allowed to manually access the Directory, to make a copy of the results of any searches made in the Directory, and to use those results, provided that none of such access, copying and use is for the purpose and in the course of any business, or for the creation of your own commercial database”. So going by these guidelines am I allowed to copy the entire database, and put it on my own PERSONAL website without making profit or being a business? And if somebody copies the data of my personal website for commercial use, well … that’s a whole new can of worms isn’t it?
Now factor in that Brendon Battles is the director and shareholder of IMG. This guys is really fairly famous for making millions via spamming, and was once reported to have once sent 50 million spam emails per day.
So, where do you stand in the scheme of this? Is it time they started paying *us* for information they are sharing and making money off? Let me know your opinions!