Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Royal Mail threat likely to close ernestmarples.org

The Royal Mail has sent cease-and-desist orders (via its lawyers) to Richard Pope and Harry Metcalfe, the web developers behind ernestmarples.org (which we’ve referred to before).

Basically, they’re saying that ernestmarples is accessing the RM’s postcodes-to-coordinates database without permission, and that their clients are suffering loss as a result, and so they should stop.

Read it all (including the letter) at http://ernestmarples.com/blog/?p=3.

Two immediate questions:
1) how can it be unauthorised to access a database that is publicly accessible through others? Though of course there may be lots of fine print in white on a white background in which you “agree” not to reuse the information for anything actually useful anywhere.

2) precisely how much, and where, is the loss that Royal Mail has suffered? Ernestmarples would never have bought a licence. The services that they scraped for it (which RM’s lawyers have demanded a list of) are free to the public.

Tom Watson is ever so slightly incandescent about this; if he were a light bulb you probably wouldn’t be able to buy him in the shops.

This is stupid: as Tom Watson points out, closing this service will also affect other services that are being offered. Not clever.

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