Legal Arrangements for Use and Control of Real-Time Data

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, technology - management information systems, technology - passenger information, technology - ticketing systems, organisation - contracting


Contracts, Copyright Act of 1976, Data protection, Data sharing, Freedom of Information Act, Legal factors, Legal rights, Licensing, National security, Ownership, Real time information, Safety, State laws, Surveys, Transit operating agencies


This digest addresses the legal implications of a transit agency's ownership and sharing of real-time data. As used herein, the term real-time data means data that are being collected at the same time they are being generated and that may be disseminated immediately to patrons or others. This digest discusses whether a transit agency has ownership rights in its real-time data and whether it may protect itself from someone copying, using, or disseminating its real-time data. The digest addresses whether real-time data may be protected by the law of intellectual property, in particular the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, or whether, alternatively, an agency would have a claim under state law of someone's misappropriation of the agency's data. The digest discusses whether an agency may protect its data by a terms-of-use, end-user license or other agreement. As will be discussed, it appears that protection for real-time data is pursuant to contract and licensing law, not the copyright laws. The digest examines whether a transit agency may have to disclose its real-time data pursuant to a public records disclosure law, such as a freedom of information act (FOIA) or a freedom of information law (FOIL), even if the government paid for the technology needed to collect real-time data. The digest considers whether a transit agency could refuse to provide its real-time data pursuant to a FOIA or FOIL request because of homeland security and antiterrorism or other public safety concerns. Appendix A to the digest discusses the results of a survey of transit providers regarding their collection, use, and protection of real-time data, including whether real-time data are being used to increase advertising revenue.


Permission to publish the abstract and link to the report has been given by Transportation Research Board.