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Rock climber’s open data project in jeopardy after false copyright claims

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced that it is supporting a programmer and climber whose open data project dedicated to rock climbing is under attack for allegedly infringing copyright.

This accusation against Viet Nguyen’s OpenBeta non-profit comes from another similar and community-driven project, Mountain Project, the digital rights group explained.

The site’s repository is hosted on GitHub, to which Mountain Project has sent a DMCA notice demanding that the repository be removed.

But the EFF says the copyright claim is false and Nguyen’s use of data provided by users and published by Mountain Project is a case of fair use rather than a copyright violation.

The data in question includes climbing routes, locations, ratings, etc., and is contributed by the climbing community. It is used by Nguyen to produce an open source project that its creator says is dedicated to providing free and open access to rock climbing data.

Meanwhile, Mountain Project has built search tools and climbs lists, among other content, also based on data provided by users. A cease-and-desist sent to Nguyen, however, states that Mountain Project owns “all rights and interests in the user-generated work.”

This could come as a surprise to the people who provided Mountain Project with this data in the first place, the EFF remarked in its response to the copyright claim – not least because the project’s terms of use state that users, rather than the project, own their content.

Mountain Project’s users provide the site with a non-exclusive license to use the information they share, and the threat against Nguyen means that the rights of other community members are now being usurped as a weapon against one of them, the EFF suggested.

Furthermore, climbing routes and locations aren’t copyrightable, the EFF continued, and reiterated that Nguyen’s use of the data in question qualifies as fair use, since Open Beta aims to contribute back and educate others on how open source software can be used to create tools of interest to the rock climbing community.

The EFF is calling the copyright claim meritless and is asking those who submitted it to withdraw it without delay.

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