Last year QRZ.com made accusations that callsign database sites HamQTH.com and QRZCQ.com stole QRZ callbook data, citing planted fake callsigns in the QRZ database appearing in their databases. Both HamQTH and QRZCQ denied the claims. QRZ appears to have recently upped the ante, having contacted at least one software developer, N3FJP, requesting him to remove HamQTH support from his logging program, claiming “Programs that facilitate the use of HamQTH.com are, in legal terms, are participating in “contributory infringement.” HamQTH on Facebook continues to deny copying QRZ data, though it’s been noted that the site accepts publicly submitted data, so the possibility of QRZ lifted data exists. HamQTH founder, Petr, OK2CQR, in a Facebook post quoted from a private email exchange QRZ founder Fred AA7BQ, “Your service does not offer anything to the amateur radio community that isn’t available elsewhere, which makes you a parasite, enjoying the benefits of the hard work of others.” The comment struck me as ironic as Petr has no advertising on the HamQTH website and he also contributes to the community the free CQRLog logging program, which is open source software. To people who know what Petr has done, he is hardly a parasite. QRZ, on the other hand, generates revenue by hosting content others write.
Several times I have run comparison queries between QRZ and HamQTH and have yet to find any unique QRZ data in HamQTH query results. I’m not saying QRZ data doesn’t exist in HamQTH, it’s just that I haven’t found it and I haven’t seen evidence that the copying, if it occurred, is prevalent. On the Facebook thread it was mentioned that email addresses have appeared in HamQTH profiles that may have come from QRZ.
After the claims by QRZ last year, the QRZ callbook listings for HamQTH founder OK2CQR (1) and QRZCQ founder DO5SSB disappeared. DK5TX claims his QRZ profile was repeated edited without his knowledge when he linked to his HamQTH profile page. (OK2CQR’s QRZ callbook entry reappeared a few days ago.)
While I should be concerned about copyright infringement, I have difficulty siding with QRZ in this dispute. The information in QRZ is mostly information in the public domain and user contributed profile information was created by users, not QRZ personnel, though they created the system to store it and charge for XML access. Email addresses of active radio amateurs can be easily harvested on the Internet by anyone and collected in a database. Furthermore, I find the alleged QRZ manipulation of database data in retaliation disturbing. As I indirectly attempted to illustrate in this satire piece earlier this year, QRZ is considered the de facto amateur radio callbook these days, and essentially has a monopoly. QRZ’s dominant position dates back to the times when government agency radio amateur database data was difficult to acquire and process, before the Internet became mainstream and online query tools to government data became commonplace. With this monopoly comes a responsibility, beyond generating paychecks for employees, but a responsibility to the community. In my opinion it’s time to get this data in more open databases, and on sites that are not concerned with web clicks and revenue or those that host forums with often vitriolic exchanges that do not reflect well on amateur radio.
(1) http://hamqth.com/news.php, Posting from 20 June 2012