back to article Berlin bans handy iPhone metro app

Berlin public transportation company BVG has banned a popular iPhone application which helps to navigate the city's vast metro system with over 170 stations. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands Dutch Rail is threatening a student who developed a nifty train timetable for the iPhone. Both BVG and Dutch Rail claim the apps violate …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bunch of C^&ts

    He should then sue them for copy right infringements.

  2. Kyle

    Copyright issue or resource management issue?

    The Berlin crowd sound like they're being a bit daft, but the Dutch crowd may have a legitimate complaint if the relevant individual is selling an app that carries out its tasks by placing an extra load on their servers. Not sure why the copyright to timetables is being protected at such lengths - perhaps their legal team have suggested copyright protection as the best means to prevent 3rd party sites/apps from scraping data from their publicly accessible database? (In which case I'm curious as to why they decided against redrafting the terms of use for the site and database to include a clause whereby only official tools may be used to access the database).

  3. Chris Thorpe

    Just a thought...

    Does giving wide access to timetables result in more or less use of trains? And does the train operator's revenue come from timetables, or from train tickets? I'm just askin'

  4. Wokstation

    "Banned" it, eh?

    So what, they're going to stop every passenger with an IPhone, search their phone for the app and delete it if found? Or refuse to transport such passengers?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Trein works like a train... not a Dutch train though

    I've downloaded the app after ontacting the developer. He was quick to point out that he is in negotiations with the Dutch railways because of all the negative PR this is generating. Honestly, it is beyond me why these companies don't concentrate on their core businesses. You just know their own iPhone app would have sucked. What with all the buses having GPS on-board these days as well, they should just open up all this information for, oh I don't know, their customers... It would be great if my iPhone (hi Webster!) would signal me if my bus is about five minutes away.

  6. dervheid

    It's astounding...

    that so many bodies like BVG and NS have their heads so far up their own corporate arses.

    Of course, the fact that they both appear to be developing or releasing their own 'versions' of these apps has absolutely no bearing on the matter whatsoever.

    Does it?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    So don't use the metro!

    Drive! Use carbon! Rent the biggest SUV you can find and pollute the hell out of Germany's air.

    Paris, because we all know she would.

  8. Tom

    Common sense failure

    They should embrace the individuals who made these applications, not hinder them.

  9. Richard


    Are you kidding. Sure it would make life easier for the customer, thus making their core business more desirable and boosting profits. But, they'd also be allowing others to make money on something they couldn't create even if they tried... that's giving stuff away. Now we can't have that.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sneaky gag

    "Handy" app..... as in das deutcher werd "handy" fur ein mobil telefon.

    Oh! How we laffed.

  11. Gareth


    Typical you wait ages for a iPhone timetable application and then two come along at once.

  12. elpaw

    @Copyright issue or resource management issue?

    I could use firefox (or a paid-for browser) to access the Dutch timetables. Would that be a 3rd party app scraping data from a publically available database? I would say yes.

    Whats the difference between that and a more-focussed app?

  13. Simon Greenwood

    Strange attitude to timetable information

    Here in West Yorkshire, Metro, the local transport authority, have a service called YourNextBus, which allows a passenger to text the number of bus stop to a five figure phone number to get the next buses due at that stop. The number is 11 figures long, which isn't that easy to remember, so I had the idea of writing an applet for Symbian phones that would allow the user to store their most used stops and send a query with a couple of keystrokes. I sent Metro an email outlining what I planned and they responded by saying that the information was copyrighted and should only be used by 'approved applications'. *shrug*

  14. Herr Ferret

    Weird News

    I have been using a great palm application called Metro in berlin for years. Works a treat, wonder why it slipped under the radar?

    Very weak sauce BVG. They never will release an app as it won't run on windows, like the crashtastic ticket machines.

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  16. Frumious Bandersnatch

    @Sneaky gag

    It's not considered polite to laugh at Germans just because they have a daft word for a mobile phone. Although it *is* funny :-)

  17. yeah, right.


    ROFLMAO. Nice one.

    As for the rest, I'll guess it's because public transport all over are being run by hypocrites who don't use their own services. If people start actually using all that scheduling information, they might start to notice that the schedules were written by sadists or incompetents, sometimes both. Doesn't help that every single transportation authority I've bothered to check out has big ties to... car dealerships, usually through relatives. This of course gives even more incentive to make sure the public isn't being served right.

  18. Scott

    We didn't think of it first... no-one can have it until we've done it ourselves at a higher cost and with lower quality than the original.

    So there.


  19. Mark

    Hower coming soon...

    The official Berlin Metro Subscription service. Only 30Euro a month to get the latest Berlin metro maps...

    Cynical or what? Why else would they stop people downloading an app that promotes the use of the metro???

  20. Adair Silver badge

    The tide comes in, the tide goes out,...

    Just in case you think we're are immune from this kind of silliness by virtue of having a moat between ourselves and the rest of Europe: the movements of the tides round UK shores are copyright of the UK Hydrographic Office and the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office. In other words, if you have the temerity to publish this data, derived from your own research and mathematical effort, said copyright holder will (and do), send the boys round to sort you out.

    Somehow, as a child, I never thought of the phases of the moon and the movement of the world's oceans as 'belonging' to anyone! Shows just how wrong you can be (sigh).

  21. Charles Manning

    Think of the gravy!

    The problem here is that some IT manager has a small group of programmers who have been working on an app for years.

    Now some punk comes and takes that away from him... He'll FUD the hell out of this to keep his cushy position.

  22. Daniel B.

    Copyright isn't exclusive to BVG

    I dare you guys to do a similar iPhone app for the London Underground. It won't take long for you to get slapped with the same stuff.

    Even serving the PDF version of the Tube's map on another site is considered copyright violation. However, I wonder if BVG would strike a deal on said student; it is useful to them, after all.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Design Skills

    I have to say having been to Berlin a couple of times that I don't hold out much hope of them being able to develop a half-way decent iPhone app, seeing as they can't even get their act together with their transport maps / timetable / platform signage / websites.

    On the other hand, you can use your 'handy' underground, and you don't boil to death as you do in London.

    London Underground seem to be restricting apps in a similar way, although only in terms of using the official tube map (must be downloaded) and not for service update / route planners.

  24. Inachu

    NO WAY!

    Timing a train to a stop is not a COPYRIGHT!

    Hahaha If it is then I can copyright the time every night I kiss a woman goodbye at 7pm.

  25. vincent himpe
    Thumb Down


    they are now hjust starting to think about maybe develping their own crap.

    son;t spend mone on meetings and commitees and coders. just drop half of what you would spend on the preliminary crap intot he hands of these two people that already have a working version. hire them , pay them a salary.

    but then of course , al these big paycheck grabbing 'man-agers' would have to find another reason for being employed ...

    bunch of tossers.

  26. Dave
    Paris Hilton


    They are willing to pay 1000's of Euro to print timetables which they then give away free, gratis and for nowt, 99% of which end up as litter.

    Unfortunately for this English person it just confirms the Daily Mail stereotypes I hold about both nations.

    Paris, Natch. They have a Metro system too

  27. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Jobs Horns

    Sad bunch of twats on this afternoon

    1) Nothing to do with profits. Public transport is largely funded by government grants and most people have some form of season ticket. There is little or no additional money made through direct ticket sales which are there to scratch the itch that people should be seen to pay to use the system.

    2) Screen-scraping is a copyright issue because even if the data collected is publically available. It is the form in which the information is available which is important. Most German train (and the Dutch one) websites use software developed by a private company, HAFAS, which naturally has a vested interest in not seeing the data thus made available to possible competitors. Making this data available in other forms without their consent may constitute a material breach of contract and as the development of the software has been paid for the majority of customers, the minority is benefitting at the expense of the majority. Nothing new, there, then.

    But basically JesusPhone users are idiots who should be made to pay for their gullibility. Nice to see if Apple's prepared to act as gateway keeper here by booting such applications off the phone as they've presumably promised the music and phone industry.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Daft Wankers

    Can't be arsed to write their own app and get it on teh market for their own users so someone else does it and now they're miffed. Too bad fer ya eh?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    its geting silly

    every time someone does something these days somebody is ready to send in the legal team to claim the pound of flesh.

    i think i will patent how to make a shit, so every time someone goes the bog they have to pay me !

  30. Jim
    Thumb Down

    Re: Sad bunch of twats on this afternoon

    In a similar vein, look tosser, in reverse order...

    "But basically JesusPhone users are idiots who should be made to pay for their gullibility."

    So you are proposing that freedom of expression should not be upheld unless it matches your asthetic?

    "Screen-scraping is a copyright issue because even if the data collected is publically available. It is the form in which the information is available which is important."

    The data is not just publically available it is paid for, and therefore owned, by the public. A 3rd party may be contracted to display the data but then copyright only applies to that 3rd party's source code. So unless the source code is being used without permission then there is no copyright issue.

    "There is little or no additional money made through direct ticket sales which are there to scratch the itch that people should be seen to pay to use the system."

    So are season tickets free or do people have to pay for them (thus paying to use the system)?

    Remember this is not a freetard issue, the data has been paid for from the public purse so it belongs to the public.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    I agree with the transport companies. In most cases the taxpayer pays for the infrastructure and associated information. Along comes some punk and starts charging for the same information? If they weren't so keen to make a profit then I doubt BVG or NS would be upset. Even if the firms chose to start charging for the same information then at least the money would be going back to the public utility.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tidal info

    @ Adair,

    I don't think you've quite got that right. You are perfectly free to publish your own tide tables and maps, derived from your own data. If you want to put in a network of water level measurement devices around the UK and pay for your own hydrographic surveys, feel free to negotiate where the measurement devices can be located and pay for the regular data gathering from those devices. What the Admiralty object to is you making a profit from their expenditure.

    Of course, this is in complete contrast to the position in the USA, where any work of the Federal Government and associated agencies is free and in the public domain (national security excepted), on the basis that it has already been paid for by the taxpayers. For once, I feel the Americans have got it right.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Delete your browser now

    Sounds like you will need to delete your browser if you have a shortcut/book mark to their schedules. I think they also need to have a word with Apple and Microsoft to get their data scraping browsers removed from their systems.

    evil Bill because I can't have evil Steve as well

  34. Caff


    obviously its all becuase of the terrorists...

    If they hand out the timetables themselves they can control what the terrorists have access too. eh somehow

    But if these "hackers" start giving away or selling phone apps the terrorists will use them.. somehow

    its all very technical you see.. people like us just wouldn't understand the danger we are really in

  35. gfx

    dutch timetables

    Dutch timetables aren't free, you can buy them. They do have a slightly sucky website.

    Running on time however is still a problem, but they found a way to just cancel a train when it is delayed too much so that it won't register as delayed.

  36. Adair Silver badge

    Re: Tidal Info.

    @ AC

    You may be right, but I am aware that this has long been a sore point. People who have made THEIR data available (both for free and for a fee), both here and overseas (there's a good US based Linux app.---called 'XTide' from memory), have had to withdraw their UK tide info. because they got threatened by the UK Govt.

    AFAIK this is a blanket ban on publishing tidal data for the UK (and tidal data relevant to overseas British territories), unless it is sourced from the official Govt. tables; and so also paid for.

  37. Anonymous Coward


    Berlin did this? That takes my breath away...

  38. Jon Kale

    Re: Sad bunch of twats on this afternoon


    "Remember this is not a freetard issue, the data has been paid for from the public purse so it belongs to the public."

    So, where do I get my Chieftain? Or my Typhoon? 'cos I paid for them too.

    I'm guessing you're a 'Merkin, yes? If that's the case, then you might not be aware that in the UK and, I suspect, in Germany and Holland too the public sector will often contract with the private sector to provide a service on a non-exclusive basis. In this scenario, the state gets the service cheaper than it would on an exclusive basis (thereby providing something that used to be called "best value" until even the Accentards and McKinseytards that drive government thinking in the UK realised what a misnomer this was). The quid pro quo is that the service provider then gets to make up the difference be reselling the service. The logic behind this approach is that if multiple independent entities are allowed to compete to provide the service it'll be provided (by some indeterminate magic) more efficiently than if there were a monopoly provider.

  39. Paul H.

    The App "Fahr-Info Berlin" was not banned from the iTunes App Store.

    There is a mistake in your article:

    The App "Fahr-Info Berlin" was not banned from the iTunes App Store.

    The BVG just wants, that the graphical overview of the subway lines - called "Netzspinne" in German - is not part oh Jonas Witt's iPhone-App anymore.

    But of course, the BVG should be more thankfull to Jonas Witt and award him with a lifetime free ride on their busses, underground- and speed-trains and trams!

  40. Giles Jones Gold badge


    Most of these applications just use a web connection to download the latest info, parse the HTML and create a Cocoa touch interface to the data. There is no data being stored on the device AFAIK and it's hardly different that going to their website to get the info.

  41. John Savard

    Information versus Presentation

    Odd. It used to be that only the presentation of information could be copyrighted, not the information itself. So as long as no part of their map drawing or typesetting of the Berlin Rail schecule was copied, copyright law should not even be an issue. Of course, it could be that German copyright law is more far-reaching.

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