Feeds

Royal Mail lawyers demand closure of postcode lookup site

Ernest Marples Postcodes Ltd loses will to live

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
4chan outraged by Emma Watson nudie photo leak SCAM
In the immortal words of Shaggy, it wasn't me us ... amirite?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.