Sunday, April 15, 2012

Canada Post in Postal Code Copyright Fail

A company in Ottawa has crowdsourced a database of postal codes and now it appears that Canada Post is suing them for violation of copyright.  If you can't believe it, read it for yourself at CBC.   

Postal code data is a set of facts, and facts are not protected by copyright.  Yes, the format of those facts, so the A9A 9A9 character/digit sequence or format might be protected, so if you set up your own postal code system and you used L0L 0L0 somewhere, then they might have a case, and you might be a pirate, rrr, but even then it's not clear to me how you'd have damaged Canada Post's interests in any way.  Like, what is the harm?

In the current case Canada Post is trying to protect it's right to price gouge by making it illegal for other companies to compile and sell public facts.  In a free market this is called competition, and I can see how Canada Post might not like that because access to their own database of postal codes is extraordinarily expensive.

This is exactly the same situation as in other copyright cases, where rather than innovate to provide an awesome product at an awesome price, fat-cats in business lobby the fat-cats in government to protect lousy old business models with overreaching copyright law, protecting the interests of business over the interests of the consumer and of the society at large. 

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