Feeds

Royal Mail lawyers demand closure of postcode lookup site

Ernest Marples Postcodes Ltd loses will to live

SANS - Survey on application security programs

A UK postcode lookup service has been slapped with a cease and desist letter from the Royal Mail, forcing it to close down its website.

Until last Friday (2 October) North London-based Ernest Marples Postcodes Ltd had been providing web outfits with an API to power their sites that helped people search for information specific to their area.

However, the two-man operated site, which was launched by Richard Pope and Harry Metcalf in July this year, is currently declaring that it “has been disabled because of legal action.”

The Royal Mail confirmed to The Register that its lawyers had indeed sent out a letter to Ernest Marples Postcodes Ltd. It gave us this statement:

"We have not asked anyone to close down a website. We have simply asked a third party to stop allowing unauthorised access to Royal Mail data, in contravention of our intellectual property rights."

Ernest Marples Postcodes Ltd declined to reveal where it gets its data.

“We don’t hold a copy of the postcode database ourselves, neither in complete form nor as part of a cache,” it claims on its site.

It said that since being served with the letter, a number of services including Job Centre Pro Plus, which allows people to track down jobs in their local area, have been affected by the Royal Mail's take down request.

"We are not in a position to mount an effective legal challenge against the Royal Mail’s demands and therefore have closed the ErnestMarples.com API effective immediately," it said.

The Open Rights Group's executive director Jim Killock took the opportunity to have a dig at the Royal Mail.

“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," he said yesterday.

Around 121,000 UK postal workers currently face the axe.

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

Other services affected by the Royal Mail's letter include Planning Alerts and The Straight Choice, both of which had been using Ernest Marples Postcodes Ltd's API.

As it currently stands, anyone wishing to use postcode data legally needs to annually cough up anything between £85 for a single use licence to £75,000 for a corporate licence.

In 2007 the Royal Mail made about £1.6m from licensing the Postcode Address File (PAF) database.

“It is easy to see that large numbers of small business ideas and not for profit services are being blocked by these licence fees - it is in effect a tax on innovation,” claimed Killock.

It's not clear at this stage if the Royal Mail plans to target other websites for being in "contravention" of its IP, but a simple search on Google brings up plenty of services offering UK postcode APIs. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.