by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, crown copyright, openness, postal codes, uk

After Forcing Down Some Sites For Revealing Postal Codes, UK Decides To Open The Data Up

from the that-was-quick dept

It really was just a couple months ago that the Royal Mail in the UK was using a copyright claim to stop websites from offering public postal code data. It made no sense that such data should be proprietary, and it appears that, finally, UK officials are realizing this. Starting next year, the UK will free up postal code data so that anyone can use it. There are still some questions as to how this will be done, but it's a huge step forward from shutting sites down to actually freeing up the data.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:02am

    I wonder how many people stopped using postal codes because they were too hard to look up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Frosty840, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:26am


    Uuuh... Nobody, ever. Your question is equivalent to "How many people stopped entering a city name in an address because it was too difficult to spell?". I suppose someone might have done that, but we'll probably never know, because they're not likely to admit sending a bunch of mail with incomplete addresses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Frosty840, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:28am

    Not the point

    The point is that the postal codes don't relate directly to physical locations without the "Big Book Of Which Postal Codes Refer To Which Streets". Previously, the Royal Mail was allowed to charge for this information, but the UK government, in its continuing determined efforts to ensure that the Royal Mail never makes a profit.

    The intention is that this unprofitability will force the government to sell the Royal Mail into private ownership which, if all previous public-to-private selloffs in the UK are any indication, will result in a reduced service, operating at a bigger operating loss, requiring more government subsidy than the current system (see: UK selloff of the railway network, which, now in private ownership, receives twice as much government money as used to when operating as a public service).

    As to why successive UK governments seem so determined to "privatise" our public services, and then subsidise them to an even greater extent than they were before the "privatisation", I assume that they've all been bought and paid for, much like your politicians in the US.

    So, yes, that's why data created by and for the use of the Royal Mail is no longer being charged for; because it was actually bringing in revenue for the organisation, and the government has decreed that the Royal Mail should remain unprofitable at all costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Chargone (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 2:59am

    See, in NZ a while back, they changed the post codes, at least here abouts. big reshuffle...

    They then delivered cards with the appropriate new ones on them to every home telling them which one applied to them.

    this is interesting in that, personally, i've only Ever had to supply a post code when buying stuff online from overseas.

    that said, packages usually seem to come with their postcodes marked. nothing else, but the packages do.

    Frosty840's comment sounds depressingly likely, at least in terms of the general gist of it.

    privatisation of infrastructure here has had mixed results [in part due to mixed methodology... some elements were turned into State Owned Enterprises instead... basically going from government departments to... well, 'corporations' in which the government is the only shareholder, i believe.]... the government ended up buying back what was left of the tracks from the rail system for NZ$1 [it's worth untold thousands just as scrap metal, let alone any other considerations!] and taking on the cost of maintaining it because the various American and Australian interests who owned it at various times stuffed it up so badly. More recently they spent a few million buying back the rest of it.

    the post office here is an interesting creature... at various times it's been a monopoly, or not, part of the government, or not, the same entity as the telephone company, or not, the same entity as a bank [twice, no less! though I'm not sure how close the ties are in the current incarnation other than sharing premises to cut costs], or not...

    anyway, the above ramble aside, it's always nice to see governments doing something smart, or at least logical from a 'actually good for the general populous' point of view. so, whatever their intentions, making this information easily available does seem like a good idea.

    as for making the postal system profitable, well, raise stamp prices?

    seriously, the number of infrastructure elements that cannot be profitable because NZ is too small is quite significant... yet one never hears about the post office here having money problems. or... any large scale problems, actually, come to think of it. [well, aside from the occasional 'oh no! dishonest mail clerk stole money from letters!' to which the usual response is 'what idiot sends cash through the post?' (unfortunately, i have to say 'my granny, for one'

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Chargone (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 3:05am


    humm. apparently the closing parenthesis, bracket, and... not completely off topic paragraph got eaten...

    i can't actually remember what i said in that paragraph, but still.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Nick (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 3:07am

    Postcodes will not be free

    The BBC article is incorrect - it's not a done deal yet. The postcode data is owned by the Royal Mail, not Ordnance Survey, and it remains to be seen whether they can be made to release it.

    More here:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Err, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:05am

    Re: Re:

    Does a letter without a postal code not get delivered then ?
    Since when ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    John Duncan Yoyo (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    When this first came up one of the ideas here was to stop using postal codes since they were too difficult to get. It was stated that the Post office would have been forced to look up the codes for themselves. Thereby costing more money doing that than they could ever hope to get from selling the postal codes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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