Time zone database axed by astrology

The venerable time zone database, tz, which powers the majority of Unix-derived software across the globe, has been shut down following a civil suit filed by astrology software makers Astrolabe.

In a post to the tz mailing list, founding contributor Arthur David Olsen said that a civil suit was filed in the US Federal court in Boston on 30 September and that the authoritative FTP server hosted by the US National Institute of Health and the mailing list itself would be shut down.

Astrolabe claims in the filing that the tz database, and specifically Olsen and tz editor Paul Eggert, have infringed upon copyright found in the ACS Atlas in relation to historical time-zone data.

The tz database is utilised throughout the software world in Linux distributions, BSD systems including OS X, GNU C libraries, databases such as Oracle and PostgreSQL, PHP, Java, Python and Perl.

That the database has been shut down is no small thing, as it leaves the Unix, Linux and BSD communities without a central authoritative server for time zone updates, for example when states move into daylight savings a week early or late — something that occurs quite frequently worldwide.

Use of the database is fairly ubiquitous. As a programmer, if you have ever used a time zone of the form "Australia/Sydney" then you are likely using tz data.

So basically this lawsuit is rather annoying. But there is one simple way to solve the problem. In the words of Rasmus Lerdorf, the creator of PHP, speaking on Twitter this morning: "A few people have asked me about the time zone db going away. Let's just abolish time zones. Problem solved."