back to article Royal Mail promises 2nd class service on postcode data

The Royal Mail looks set to disappoint members of the public hoping to see the contentious Postcode Address File database opened up for free access on the internet. On Monday the UK government reiterated plans to get the Ordnance Survey to open up some postcode data from April 2010. In November, Prime Minister Gordon Brown …

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  1. Stuart Harrison
    Stop

    I don't think it'll be the full PAF

    The dataset that's being talked about here is the Codepoint database, which ties postcodes into geographic locations (about 15 or so addresses). The PAF ties postcodes to addresses, which is exclusively owned by the Royal Mail. To be honest, I can't see Royal Mail hanging on to the PAF for much longer anyway, so it's only a matter of time before that's opened too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    List of almost 150 datasets

    The link provided (last one in the article) goes to a google discussion group that requires a password to access it. Wonder if they're going to open up the membership list as one of those datasets?

  3. Amonynous
    FAIL

    Taxpayers not welcome here.

    "In not unrelated news, UK.gov opened up a further 146 datasets over the weekend, the details are here. "

    "You cannot view the group's content or participate in the group because you are not currently a member. Members must be approved before joining."

    Says it all really.

  4. brassedoff
    Stop

    The details are here?

    Ok, what's the password?

    http://data.hmg.gov.uk/blog/almost-150-new-data-sets

  5. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Opening up new databases?

    > In not unrelated news, UK.gov opened up a further 146 datasets over the weekend, the details are here.

    Except that blog link is to a password protected site. Oh well... open government.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    populist move

    but better than nothing.

    IMHO

    more data available = good

    Royal Mail retains income stream = good

  7. frank ly

    Are They Claiming Copyright?

    It doesn't say as much in this article but it seems that Royal Mail are claiming copyright over the postcodes and their association with geographical areas.

    I thought that for copyright to be claimed, there had to be evidence of creative effort, of some kind, that could not be easily done by someone else acting independently.

    I could churn out a UK post code listing of my own devising with not much intellectual effort and the only reason it would be of no use is that no one else would be using it. Royal Mail claim they have put lots of work into this PAF, which is true, but that work was done in the furtherance of their own business activities, not for the purpose of selling the database as a desirable creative work.

    If my post code is X21 2LM, that is a simple fact, with no artistic or creative merit and it is a fact that has been forced on me and everyone else who wishes to use Royal Mail (effective monopoly) services to contact me. They should have no copyright over simple facts which they have forced onto everyone else.

    Maybe the local council will start claiming copyright over street names next. After all, it took a lot of creative effort to come up with Dangleberry Avenue and many a late night head scratching session was needed to assign my house the number '37'.

    (I believe this has a good comparison with the TV channel programme listings, which are also simple facts.)

    1. Max 12

      RE: Are They Claiming Copyright?

      "I could churn out a UK post code listing of my own devising with not much intellectual effort"

      I wish you could, however you must be very careful as it would probably be considered derivative of the copyright, and would be in violation.

      You'd need to use something completely different with no relation to the format of the current system. For example you'd probably need to prove that it is directly related to a different - and open - system (such as Lat/Lon)

  8. Lloyd
    FAIL

    "The Royal Mail invests significantly in collating and maintaining the Postcode Address File"

    I'm sure it does, but that doesn't mean that it's not utter bollocks, month on month the update files are consistently incorrect, with updates being listed as inserts, duplicates galore and frankly a level of ineptitude which is only seem in scriptkids and the civil service.

  9. JMB

    Poscodes

    If the Post Office claim they "own" postcodes then perhaps everyone should stop using them on letters. It would dramatically increase the amount of work in the sorting offices.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    @ frank ly

    "I thought that for copyright to be claimed, there had to be evidence of creative effort, of some kind, that could not be easily done by someone else acting independently."

    Wrong. Maps, databases, etc. can all be copyrighted. Nothing to stop you making your own maps or databases on the same subjects, but copyright prevents you copying someone else's. Various complications are presumed to exist by some people, but in fact don't. Copyright is automatic and doesn't even have to be registered.

    "If my post code is X21 2LM, that is a simple fact, with no artistic or creative merit"

    So just go round the country collecting the postcode from everyone you meet and pretty soon you'll have a database of all postcodes which you can legitimately sell to people, or publish for free.

    "and it is a fact that has been forced on me and everyone else who wishes to use Royal Mail (effective monopoly) services to contact me. They should have no copyright over simple facts which they have forced onto everyone else."

    Oh dear.

    Royal Mail sadly no longer have the monopoly, which is why they're so fucked now and need every penny they can get from stupid things like postcode databases.

    1. frank ly

      @AC re. monopoly

      I understand and appreciate the details of your comment, except for the monopoly point.

      I'm sure that Royal Mail have a monopoly on collecting letters and small packets/parcels from members of the public, for delivery in the UK. (Things may have changed since the last time I read that somewhere.)

  11. EvilGav 1

    Bloody Royal Mail

    After having an address that has existed for over 100 years, have decided that I cant have the same flat numbering system that has been in place for years. I'm guessing it's because their system doesn't cope very well with "flat 2f3" (2nd floor flat 3, not my actual address). Instead I get foisted with 7/13 (the 13th flat at number 7, no idea what floor it's on).

    Any time I have to deal with companies that use the address system supplied using PAF, I have to accept the new address, which started appearing 2 or 3 years ago.

    Bastards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Badgers

      2f3 vs. /13

      I could be wrong, but I thought the "2f3" style numbering was specific to Scotland, and anyone south of the border used the simpler (read: less intelligent) system. I too live in a "2f3" flat, but constantly have to tell my bank/insuarance company/etc that it's /8.

      1. Isendel Steel
        Joke

        /8

        would that be /7A for safety ?

  12. Martin Nicholls
    FAIL

    FOI Act

    ... Should solve this issue..

    Send them an FOI request every month, put the 'response' online in a database and problem solved.

    Once basically <world> starts using that they won't be able to charge for it.

  13. Chris Pearson

    Free the postcode

    If this happens then it will make a service like free the post code irrelevant, as thats just postcode x is at geo location y.

    However the PAF should also be free information, but that said all you need is a bot on facebook and you can probably create a DB of about 25% of them!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The post is required, and must contain letters.

    The non-existence of a Royal Mail, or indeed BT, monopoly for 'last mile delivery' is arguable.

    If you're not in an LLU area (high population density, and people with money) then for all practical purposes BT still have a telephony and broadband monopoly, and for similar reasons Royal Mail probably still have a delivery monopoly. Heaven help you if your in rural Scotland or Wales, or even some parts of England.

    Everybody knows it makes more sense to have 16 competing courier companies with 16 sets of vans in the profitable areas, even if it vastly increases the chance of folks having to do a 30 mile round trip to the courier depot to collect the package, and vastly increases the energy usage per package delivered, rather than a 2mile trip to the local Royal Mail who (if they delivered everything) would use a fraction of the energy per package. Doesn't it? Ditto for LLU broadband except its packets over cable rather than packages on the road.

    Competition like that is green and energy efficient isn't it? That's what markets are about, right?

  15. D B Mooney

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...

    ABout 20 years ago I worked for a postcode software house and I can vouch for the fact, as previously stated, that the quality of the quarterly updates was, and continues to be, appalling.

    In one update RM 'lost' Ashby-de-la-Zouch and parts of Leicester completely. As we were undertaking the postcoding of all NHS GP patient records at the time this made our task interesting and led to some 'lively' discussions with RM's PAF bozos (sorry, civil servants) down in Poole.

    When we demoed the software to the TV Licencing Authority their comment was along the lines of 'very interesting but way out of date'. TV Licencing have, or had, teams of agents touring the UK looking for new building sites which they can then target. This information is then passed on to RM for postcoding. As a result TV licencing have a far better database than RM and some postcodes refer to 'Plot XYZ, Skoggins Royd' or such which.

    So, can we have the TV Licencing database instead of the PAF; it's tons better?

    BTW, can we have a 'Yeh, And' Icon for the bleedin' obvious please 'cos it's bleedin' obvious RM isn't going to relinquish its death grip on the PAF without a war.

  16. bettername
    Happy

    Why the uproar?

    (Disclaimer: just written our PAF db/queries/tools to replace more expensive 3rd party app, but didn't get the PostZon data)

    AFAIK, postcodes "exist" only to help RM route mail, and for the delivery guy to group them together for ease-of-delivery. The fact that people then use them for address-entry simplification, or geo-reporting is a secondary, unintended bonus of them.

    Given that they are going to open up the Lat/Long <-> Postcode data (PostZon) should be welcomed with open arms, as that's what most non-commerical uses are for it. If you want commerical access to their work (however hard that is) of assigning postcodes to delivery routes, then surely you should have to pay /something/ for it? Just imagine if every new house was assigned a unique numerical ID, in order of build date - that'd be crap for us, but I bet RM could map that to their internal-only delivery routes for their use.

    Having said that, the licence terms are a bit drastic (can't just buy one to cover internal use + webserver use).

    That was probably pretty incoherent... but I just don't get what the fuss is about! Hell you can always fire off a query to a webservice like google/yahoo to get PC-to-Address info if you want.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    epic, epic fail

    ‘Smarter Government'

    that is a fail so large, epic fail does not even begin to encompass the fail

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