This was supposed to be a post about a cool iPhone app that provides direct (and easy) access to every roadside traffic web cam in the city (available cities listed on the website). The app provides a list of every web cam available; to simplify you can pick which sections of the highway you want to keep close tabs on. With the flick of a thumb (or index finger, depending on how you use your phone) you can easily scroll through to-the-minute views of your route with green highlights meaning ‘good’ and red meaning ‘bad’. Read an encompassing write-up about it on BlogTO.
Instead, this is a post about ‘cease and desist’ letters.
The developer of this app, Mark Pavlidis, received such a letter from the Transportation Department in Calgary (one of the cities in which you can use the app). It stated that he is required to pay a hefty $5000 licensing fee in order for his application to link to their web cam images.
This is an odd situation. Basically, the application is just linking to images on the web. As Wayne MacPhail states in his post on the topic, it’s the same that “Google does to images worldwide millions of times a day, generating revenue from that service every microsecond.”
However, is it fair in either case? If someone made an application that was linking to my Flickr images and was making money off of it, would I care? Probably. But this situation isn’t so black and white.
(side note: Pavlidis states that he is not violating the terms as presented on its website because he only links and does not pull and parse other data)
In this situation, Pavlidis is providing a tool that encourages and enables citizens of Calgary to drive with more ease. Potentially, it could help ease traffic congestion, prevent further accidents and make the roads safer. All things that I’m certain the Transportation Department of Calgary would want. Isn’t that the reason the web cams are there in the first place? To “keep Calgary on the move“? (that’s one of their tag lines, BTW).
Pavlidis has come up with an innovative idea. His innovative idea builds on these web cams and makes them more accessible and easier to use. It enhances the ‘product’ that Calgary is offering and makes it better.
Now, if someone built an application for my Flickr images that did all that for me, I wouldn’t be upset. Instead, I would reach out to them; I would work with them on integrating a strategy that fits both of our needs.
I would build and maintain a relationship with someone that can do something that I can’t.
It’s important to nurture relationships, especially ones that we can benefit from. It’s unfortunate that Calgary fails to see that and, instead, chooses to look at innovation through the eyes of their lawyers. Perhaps by shedding some light on this situation Calgary will attempt to participate using other means of communication? I would definitely welcome them to offer up their side of the story.