Post code address file: Tom Steinberg and I would agree on the idiocy of Royal Mail

A number of non-profit online services face closure today, after Royal Mail sent a cease and desist letter to free post code campaigners. The services affected include Job Centre Pro Plus, which allows you to find jobs near you. Royal Mail is currently looking to slim its workforce of 121,000 postal workers.

Royal Mail today sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Ernest Marples Ltd, the organisation providing a post code API allowing social projects to use post code searches.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group (of which I’m an Advisory Council member) said:

“It’s outrageous that Royal Mail should be sacking workers and at the same time trying to close a service that might help them find work.

“Post codes were created with public money, so they need to be used for the widest public benefit. Ernest Marples have been showing how this can be done. Their ideas need to be legalised for non-profit use, not shut down.

“Intellectual Property rules need to work for society, and not the other way round.

“An amicable solution to allow non-commercial use of post code data would be easy to create, via a key given only to non-profit organisations. Clearly, something that allows greater use of post codes is needed right now.

“Better access to information means more social and democratic benefits.”

Other services facing closure include Planning Alerts, which finds planning applications near your post code, and The Straight Choice (unfortunate name), detailing election leaflets and their claims by post code.

These services are free to UK citizens and they make their lives easier, yet because of the rigidity of Royal Mail, they’re going to closed down. It’s silly. And yet another example of how a big institution fails the innovation test when it comes to the Internet. Tom and I would agree on this point, I’m sure.

The campaigners behind Ernest Marples are programmers Richard Pope and Harry Metcalfe. Harry is also a member of ORG’s board. He is taking no part in ORG’s campaigning on this issue.

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