Will Canada Post lawsuit against GeoCoder affect your business?By Charles Prescott
This is an interesting start on analyzing the legal issues in Canada Post’s claim of copyright in their postcode database. A private company developed an address/postcode database over a period of some years through name/data-gathering on its website. In short, it crowd-s0urced a replica of CP’s database. The difference between GeoCoder and Canada Post is that the latter claims copyright and charges a fee for use of the database.
The author only mentions one user of GeoCoder’s data, the nonprofit sector, as being seriously interested in this matter. In fact, there are numberless constituencies of such databases, and easy access and fairly-priced or even free access are critical not just for fund-raising, but for a myriad of social, political and economic purposes. A few years ago Denmark placed the responsibility for maintaining the national address data in a department which regulates construction of roads and buildings. They license their data for free. A recent study shows that the ROI for society only for primary level benefits, ie, sales by the first tier licensees, is 70 to 1. Moreover, the World Bank and other development specialists have shown that street address and postcode system development and free availability of the related information are critical aspects of economic development, individual legal identity, civil rights, and citizen participation.
Some “monopolies” in civilized countries should not be exploited by specific segments of the government or industry. Addresses and postcodes are now “social goods” which should be free, like public parks and the highway system. Shame on CP for asserting it, and shame on the regulator, if there is one, who would support them. The cost to maintain the data should be borne by the society at large, and certainly not by postal ratepayers alone.
Moreover, it seems to me this case demonstrates that technology now makes the need for copyright in this subject obsolete. Copyright was supposed to protect a unique work so the author could benefit from his labor. No doubt CP has been adequately rewarded for its efforts. Building such a database no longer requires such intellectual effort, does it.