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ICANN takes charge of Internet time zone master list

The organization will take over the database of world time zones from a group of volunteers

After a lawsuit spurred a cadre of volunteers to cede management duties of Internet Time Zone Database, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has assumed control of the master list, which is used to coordinate time across different systems on the Internet.

"The Time Zone Database provides an essential service on the Internet and keeping it operational falls within ICANN's mission of maintaining a stable and dependable Internet," said Akram Atallah, ICANN's chief operating officer, in a statement. ICANN took control of the database at the request of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The TZ Database, as it is known, keeps track of all the different time zones of the world as an offset of Greenwich Mean Time, including leap seconds, various regional modifications for daylight saving time, and other temporal variances.

Operating systems such as Unix, Linux and Apple's MacOS rely on this database to coordinate times across different geographic regions, as do the Oracle and MySQL databases and many programs written in Java, Perl and PHP.

A group of volunteers, led by U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) employee David Olson, had maintained the database for the past three decades. On Sept. 30, astrology software company Astrolabe filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Olson and another volunteer, at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Astrolabe claimed that some of the historical time zone information the database used drew from their software, and the company sought royalties in compensation. NIH, which had hosted TZ Database on one of its servers, removed the list when the suit was filed. Olson, who founded the database, subsequently announced he would no longer maintain the project.

ICANN, which had been previously negotiating with Olson about taking over the database, expatiated talks and took over operations on Friday. It has stated that it would handle any legal matters that arise around the database.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com


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