Canada Post suing for providing list of postal codes for free

Canada Post is suing, the first free canadian geocoder website, for providing a crowd-sourced list of publicly available postal code data.

This idea is absolutely absurd.

Postal codes are simply a tool used for routing, like telephone numbers or internet protocol. Postal code data should be public domain or, at worst, owned by Canadian tax-payers since Canada Post is a crown corporation. Besides, if you were going to enforce “copyright” you should have done it long ago.

I wrap “copyright” in quotes because it is mechanism meant to protect expression in a fixed manner (text, recording, drawing) of an idea; it does not extend to the idea itself, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work. Items that are not protected by copyright include:

Names or slogans
Short phrases and most titles
Methods, such as a method of teaching or sculpting, etc.
Plots or characters
Factual information

Notice that? Factual information. Postal codes are factual information, not expressions of ideas.

Now I can understand what the slimeballs are upset about: they’ve started charging boat-loads of money to licence postal code data as a first-party vendor and, honestly, I’m 100% cool with that.

My issue stems from the fact that is offering crowd-sourced data which, according to the Merriam-Webster, is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

THAT is the difference.

There is no guarantee made by that the data is accurate, nor is it guaranteed actively updated — it is provided as-is.

What Canada Post can provide as a premium service is postal code / geocoding data a “first-party vendor” with guarantees about data quality and updates. Businesses will pay that guarantee. I know, I’ve implemented systems that DO pay those fees because they are an insignificant drop in the bucket when accuracy of data matters.

Don’t be stupid, Canada Post. You’re in the business of delivering the mail, not selling marketing data. Don’t use government money to sue small-time companies for offering a free alternative to your overprices services. There is so much wrong with that, I won’t even begin to point out the flaws.

Give your heads a shake.

Mike Walker

Mike is a full-stack web developer with 15 years experience. I focus on PHP & Javascript development, and work with platforms like Shopify Plus and WooCommerce eCommerce. The Agency Developer is a weekly curated newsletter with a mission to inform and educate developers working with digital agencies.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu