With Lord Vold… Mandelson looking to persuade a private partner, likely TNT, to take a minority shareholding in the Royal Mail, the interesting question arises of what happens to the ownership of the intellectual property of the Postcode Address File (PAF).
After all, if you buy into a company, you’d probably want to see more efficient use of its assets. (That’s part of the plan in the shareholding selloff.) Would that mean that TNT or similar would start trying to “sweat the assets” of the PAF?
In What does the Royal Mail sell-off mean for postcodes data we investigate this briefly. The problem is that nobody – including the Turner Report into the future of the Royal Mail – seems to have considered this. Neither PAF nor intellectual property nor postcodes are mentioned at all in the Turner report.
PAF is profitable –
in August 2007 the postal regulator Postcomm revealed that PAF operations made a profit of £1.58m on revenues of £18.36m, all but £4m from resellers.
However marketing organisations, which use PAF, don’t like the idea of those assets being sweated.
“The reason for getting the private sector involved [in the Royal Mail] is to improve efficiency,” said Robert Keitch, director of media channel development at the Direct Marketing Association. Raising PAF prices would make it harder to check addresses and increase the need for manual checks by postal staff, he suggested.
The Free Our Data campaign has consistently suggested that the PAF – linked to map data – should be made available for free, without copyright restrictions, due to its growing importance for location-based services. The comparatively small cost of running it, especially without the costs of administering its sales and checking for violations of licences, could perhaps be borne through a levy on address or name changes, or simply through the tax revenues that could be gained from new companies set up to take advantage of the datasets. However, it is unknown whether Mandelson will recommend that.
We await developments.
- The following posts may be related...(the database guesses):
- In today's Guardian: who will address the postcode mess? (13 July 2006; score: 94.86%)
- In the Guardian: the mystery of the vanishing addresses (9 January 2009; score: 87.5%)
- Postcodes to be free? But which ones? (9 December 2009; score: 82.94%)
- Postcomm makes recommendations on future of Postcode Address File: it should make a profit (19 April 2007; score: 80.66%)
- Postcode charges threatens split between councils and Post Office (16 November 2006; score: 77.57%)