Will SBS Transit see RecordTV replay?

Will SBS Transit see RecordTV replay?

Summary: I must admit, since I rejoined the ranks of public transport users, I was delighted to use the ShowNearby app on my Android to help me figure out which bus would arrive earlier and the fastest routes home. With this information, I figured I have been able to shave 10 to 15 minutes every day.

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I must admit, since I rejoined the ranks of public transport users, I was delighted to use the ShowNearby app on my Android to help me figure out which bus would arrive earlier and the fastest routes home. With this information, I figured I have been able to shave 10 to 15 minutes every day.

Then, the bus times fell silent. It transpires, according to newspaper reports, that SBS Transit has blocked off machine access to its bus times--these can now be accessed through its IRIS iPhone App or by keying in security codes on its Web site, one app at a time.

Since I now spend extra time traveling, I had some time to think about why I am doing so and its legal issues.

SBS Transit collects its bus times. However, single pieces of information such as bus number 123 will be at bus-stop X at this time is just information. It could enjoy some database protection rights under copyright law but the use by the third-party apps involves a few bus times (selected in each instance by the app user) instead of an entire database.

SBS Transit is also not in the app business. It, however, is in a dominant position as a public bus service provider in Singapore although that has a sector regulator (the Public Transport Council), so an argument that dominance in one market is being used to reinforce another market is a possible argument. One of the developers was reported to have asked for a license without success.

Having said that, there is no telling whether SBS will charge for its IRIS app in the future, whether for iPhone or other platforms.

So far, we have not heard from the Public Transport Council or the Land Transport Authority (LTA). If the goal of the LTA is to have more and better public transport information, then this may be an area they will need to wade into.

Finally, the words of Court of Appeal in the RecordTV case deserve a rewind. The court said: "There is a public interest in not allowing copyright law to hinder creativity and innovation. Rights conferred by copyright law are statutory rights. Where the statute is not clear, the court must strive to strike the right balance between the copyright owner's interests and the public interest in the use of new technology."

Topics: Outsourcing, Data Management, iPhone, Legal, Security, Singapore, Enterprise 2.0, Windows

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2 comments
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  • While I agree with the view in this articles, I have a few points to make:

    1. I think the ultimate source of transit data comes from LTA. This is inferred from the Bus Arrival Time panels in most of Orchard Road bus stops. Further more, there are also arrival information for SMRT buses.

    2. While I disagree with the hyper-reluctance by public data custodian in Singapore to share, I do find that some of the blames must lie with with the Application developers themselves. For example, some of the Android application I use query and retrieve the arrival time of ALL the buses in a bus station per click/call. This type of Kiasu programming certainly will eat up lots of provider's resources especially if you multiplied the call by number of transit users in Singapore. A better approach will be for user to specify what buses are of interest and make the query accordingly.

    Having said all the above, LTA should take the lead and publish their own Android/iOS apps with transit information for all services (SMRT, SBS and trains!)
    The current myTransit mobile website is rather not user friendly.
    Furthermore, more and more users especially the younger generation are on new smartphone platform and developer should differentiate for these users and stop standardizing to the lowest denomination by a GPRS friendly mobile page.
    .
    kipper-690cd
  • From a technical perspective, nothing comes free. SBS is able to provide bus arrival times because it installed technology to provide that information. Is this funded by LTA?
    If it is not, then why should SBS give it away for free? The same reason bus rides are not free, I see no reason why bus arrival times which are the result of SBS's investment and there is a running cost to the servers provding the timing, should be free.

    However, I would also say that it is rather short-sighted of SBS to just block of the access. A better approach would be to some how monetize this by charging a fee for access and work with app developers on this.
    anonymous