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Canada Post Files Copyright Lawsuit Over Crowd-sourced Postal Code Database

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the holding-a-copyright-on-being-jerks dept.

Canada 168

An anonymous reader writes "Canada Post has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Geolytica, which operates GeoCoder.ca, a website that provides several geocoding services including free access to a crowd-sourced, compiled database of Canadian postal codes. Canada Post argues that it is the exclusive copyright holder of all Canadian postal codes and claims that GeoCoder appropriated the database and made unauthorized reproductions. GeoCoder compiled the postal code database by using crowdsourcing techniques, without any reliance on Canada Post's database, and argues that there can be no copyright on postal codes and thus no infringement (PDF)."

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2 days later (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686811)

slashdot posts it....HAHA

Re:2 days later (5, Funny)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687231)

If it was only 2 days later, it sure as h*** didn't go via Canada Post.

It's not like anyone uses them all that much any more. The month-long postal strike last summer [csmonitor.com] (and the subsequent month to clear out the backlog) was the final straw for a lot of people.

Re:2 days later (4, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687927)

I kinda find it funny that your post is marked funny, but damn if that isn't the truth. I've switched to DHL for my regular mail if it has to be sent. I can send a letter from ontario to northern alberta or the territories for under $2. And it'll get there within 3-5 days. The last time I sent a letter via canada post it took nearly a month. Including the week it sat in edmonton.

Re:2 days later (2)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687999)

They are still one of the most economical ways to receive online purchases. Especially the $0.99 shipping included cables from Hong Kong.

And unlike UPS, Fedex, etc. if you aren't home for delivery of a parcel, picking it up at the local pharmacy is a lot more convenient than:
-Going to the depot in the industrial park 45 minutes away before 5PM
-Or allowing them to leave a computer on your front doorstep in the rain while you're at work.

Re:2 days later (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688235)

Sadly, sending that same cable from Canada to Hong Kong would cost a minimum of $5 by air.

Re:2 days later (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688343)

Just to clarify the postal strike last year, the postal service was on strike orders to be sure, but they were doing day-long local strikes. That didn't cause any serious problem to anybody other than a delay in your mail by a day or two at most.

After that, the harper government stepped in and said "Either settle this shit, or we will FORCE you to accept THIS agreement."

That agreement was LESS than what Canada Post was already willing to give to the workers. Immediately after that, Canada Post locked out ALL of the workers across the country and stopped negotiating in good faith. After all, they just had to wait and pretend they were listening to the union.

If people have a last straw for anybody, it should be for the Conservatives that ruined any possibility of proper contract negotiations.

Eh? (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686847)

In Socialist Canada, Post Office stamps you!

Re:Eh? (3, Funny)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686965)

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett is required reading, then :)

Right Idea, Wrong Argument (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686869)

As much as I think the idea of copyrighting post codes is stupid, surely the source of the data doesn't matter. That is like taking a picture, looking at each pixel, manually selecting a similar color pixel and creating a new image, then claiming that you own copyright on this new image. Postcodes should be as uncopyrightable as information about the boundary between counties.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (3, Informative)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686935)

Yea, didn't the US deal with this years ago with regards to phone numbers?

The factual aspect of the numbers could not be copyrighted, only the formatting or something like that.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686967)

I love the fact that any non-natural system artificially created for a purpose by a person or group of persons can be any more factual than any other creation, such as Harry Potter...

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688525)

JK Rowling cannot copyright the individual facts around the fictional universe she has created, I do not believe, so if you were to create a fan sequel to one of her books it would not be a problem with copyright I do not believe (though it MIGHT be a trademark problem).

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687033)

I know this sounds radical, but Canada actually has its own set of laws around copyright that are -- shockingly -- NOT THE SAME AS IN THE USA.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687259)

I know this sounds radical, but sometimes people note that there laws in a different country that - shockingly - ALREADY ACTUALLY HANDLE A PARTICULAR SITUATION CORRECTLY.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (1)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687739)

I don't know why this is flamebait. I was going to mod it up, but it's a good point that I'd like to speak on.

Techdirt, for example, often incorrectly assumes that the purpose of copyright in Canada is the same everywhere else as it is in America.

While I agree with the "promote the progress" part in principle, that history does not exist for copyright law here. There are more moral arguments in our legal situation.

I would prefer a promote the progress justification but I don't think that was how our regime came to be, and I don't think there is a well defined purpose to our copyright system.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688245)

The purpose of copyright is to extort consumers.

Common law countries are split about this (3, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687189)

Common law countries are split about this. In the USA, phone numbers cannot be copyrighted, but in Australia, for example, they can.

Re:Common law countries are split about this (2)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688125)

So if I put my phone number on my business card... the phone company could sue me for copyright infringement, in theory?

Re:Common law countries are split about this (3, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688433)

No, an individual phone number is not copyrightable, but a collection of them is. In the United States, an exhaustive collection of real-world facts, such as all numbers issued to telephone customers in a particular service area, precludes copyrightability (Feist v. Rural).

Re:Common law countries are split about this (4, Informative)

mrbester (200927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688331)

There is a good reason for that: both Canada and Australia are Commonwealth countries, i.e. they used to be part of the British Empire. Britain's telephone system was owned by the General Post Office (a Government Agency - deliberate capitalisation) who issued numbers. These were Crown Copyright (same as Ordnance Survey maps still are) and you had to pay to use the base data. The same applies to this day for post codes in the UK. Thus the system of telephone numbers and postal addresses being defined and maintained by government agencies and protected by copyright naturally was used in the colonies.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687531)

Yes. Word was that Yellow Pages and such would seed the book with bogus info so they'd have a real case when someone copied it.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (1)

mrbester (200927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688341)

This did indeed happen in UK.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (3, Interesting)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686957)

Copyright provides for independent authorship, so if the database was truly compiled independently, it wouldn't be copyright infringement, even if Canada idiotically allows postcode databases to be copyrighted.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686993)

No.. much more like someone taking the first picture of a building and then claiming all other pictures of the building violate some copyright of the first picture taker.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (3, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687069)

No.. much more like someone taking the first picture of a building and then claiming all other pictures of the building violate some copyright of the first picture taker.

You mean like this [amateurpho...pher.co.uk] ?

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (1, Insightful)

mrjb (547783) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687127)

Facts should not be copyrightable. The fact that street A has postcode B, therefore should not be copyrightable, never mind that you 'invented' or 'generated' those facts. But I don't think your analogy is particularly strong.

If you blatantly make an analog copy of the Mona Lisa, that's copyright infringement even if the target work doesn't have the exact same colour values as the original. But what's happening here is more like trying to paint a copy of the Mona Lisa without ever looking at the original, merely based on descriptions a bunch of people give you. In other words, you will never know for sure how accurate your representation is going to be.

After years of work, you present your result to the general public, and it looks, well, like this [comic-freaks.com] . Next thing you know, the Canadian Post Office sues you for copyright infringement. Somehow I don't think (I might hope not!) that the judge will agree.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (3, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687487)

Why would you post a link to ONE picture where you need to be logged in to view? I realize my comment is off-topic, but when you're having a public discussion and you're trying to use examples to back up your points so they're more clear, I can't help but wonder why you would choose an example behind a wall that we have to now get over.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (2)

Smauler (915644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688271)

If you blatantly make an analog copy of the Mona Lisa, that's copyright infringement even if the target work doesn't have the exact same colour values as the original.

Wait, have they extended copyright duration again?

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (1)

Sean (422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687391)

Your analogy is complete wrong. You can't copyright mere facts! A list of postal codes is like the score of a baseball game.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687983)

Your analogy is complete wrong. You can't copyright mere facts! A list of postal codes is like the score of a baseball game.

I see what you did here. Shut up, troll.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687647)

As much as I think the idea of copyrighting post codes is stupid, surely the source of the data doesn't matter.

Excuse me, but copyright is about copying. So the source is most important. If the source is a list of postcodes from the post office, then it is copyright infringement. If the source is thousands of people entering their location and postcode on a website, then it's not.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687749)

What actually matters in copyright is not where you get your data from, but what it is supposed to resemble. If a company logo is copped it doesn't matter if each pixel is croudsourced or the entire thing is pulled from the companies website. I am not saying it is right but the argument that the source of data actually makes a difference to whether you produce something that resembles a copyrighted work tends not to matter in copyright law.

Re:Right Idea, Wrong Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687889)

Not only that, but if someone puts the postal code on an envelope... isn't that a copyright infringment, as they're doing it for profit? Eg. Mailing out an invoice.

Fuck government monopolies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686881)

The US Postal monopoly is finally dying. Canada should take a hint.

Re:Fuck government monopolies (1)

arekq (651007) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686947)

What operations do they fulfill anyways?
Right, they STRIKE!

Re:Fuck government monopolies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687421)

Probably far more useful "operations" than you do

Re:Fuck government monopolies (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687097)

So that more rural areas of Canada (read: Just about anywhere but Toronto) has to pay significantly more for it's postal service? I'd prefer to leave such fascism to the Americans - they are so good at it after all.

Re:Fuck government monopolies (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687507)

When's the last time you actually mailed a letter? Before or after the last month-long postal strike last summer? The last postal increase? The last decade?

We could do just fine with once-a-week delivery, which would drastically cut both costs and prices, while improving service (look at all the places where there is NO mail delivery because they've been built in the last 2 decades, so you need to go and pick it up at a "community mailbox"). It's not like a letter gets delivered the next day anyway, and they deliver more junk mail and ad mail than real mail.

So - go to 1-day-a-week (or 2 days if you must, sort of like garbage pickup), and re-instate door-to-door service to everyone, while reducing prices.

Re:Fuck government monopolies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688101)

So that more rural areas of Ontario (read: Just about anywhere but Toronto) has to pay significantly more for it's postal service? I'd prefer to leave such fascism to the Americans - they are so good at it after all.

Here, i fixed that for you.

Smackdown? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686931)

IANAL (but in true Slashdot style I'll offer a legal opinion anyways), but the defence's reponse lays a smackdown on a number of fronts, probably the easiest of which is the statute of limitations (3 years). The database has been operating since 2004, so I think CPC is probably SOL.

Re:Smackdown? (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687155)

If the database stopped existing 3 years ago, then it would be elegible for statute of limitations protections. I wonder how adverse possession laws would work here.

Re:Smackdown? (1)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687339)

now i am not legal expert but afaik the statute of limitations usually is counted from when you stop doing the illegal activity, not from when you started it.

so if the DB is still operating, then it is not outside the statute of limitations.

i hope the canadian post loses this case as i don't think postal codes should be copyrightable, but a defense of this being outside of the statute of limitations would be laughed at by the judge and the prosecution.

If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (3, Interesting)

American Patent Guy (653432) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686973)

I'd say that postal codes aren't "works of authorship" entitled to copyright protection. It looks like the canadian lawyer is making a similar argument from paragraph 23 on.

Oh, wait ... I am a lawyer ...

Re:If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (1)

Epimer (1337967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687223)

It isn't the postal codes per se which have been claimed to have been infringed, though, is it? It's the database of postal codes.

I don't know about US or Canadian copyright law, but under UK copyright law there are sui generis database rights which would apply in this case despite a postal code in itself not being eligible for copyright protection.

Re:If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (2)

American Patent Guy (653432) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687673)

There are such rights in the U.S., but to copy a database, you must first have access to it. When was GeoCoder given access to the Canadian Post files? As the GeoCoder DB is an independent, crowdsourced work, the only claim the Canadian Post could have is in its contents.

Re:If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (1)

Epimer (1337967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687843)

I'm not saying that the CP's claim is valid, only pointing out the difference between a claim that postal codes per se were being "infringed" as opposed to the database.

Re:If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687533)

Actually, I'd argue that since Canada Post is a crown corporation, and are funded by the public, any works they produce are owned by the public.

That being said, I'd also question the need for such a site in the first place, given that Canada Post actually has a very good database of postal codes available on their site, which is searchable by street name/number, city name, etc..

Re:If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687669)

The Canada Post website is freely available until:

1. The part of Canada Post that runs it goes on strike.
2. Canada Post starts charging for access to postal codes.
3. Canada Post shuts it down or sells it (privatizes it) .

An open and freely available source of postal code lookups is much better.

Copyright? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39686989)

AFAIK only creative expressions are copyrightable and therefore there is no copyright protection for things like postal codes which involve no creativity whatsoever. In the EU we have database rights, which protects databases which required a substantial investment to create even if they are not creative. Maybe Canada has something similar, but in that case a crowdsourced database should not violate that protection as there is not copying involved.

Sounds like either the lawsuit or the article is meritless.

Re:Copyright? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687445)

Be careful with the creative expressions argument. I wouldn't say Britney Spear's work is particularly creative, but apparently it's covered by copyright law.

Re:Copyright? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687849)

herpity derp.

Some conflicts with this story (5, Informative)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39686997)

My first reaction was: It's a Dangerous path, once "facts" can become copyrighted. Then I (gasp) RTFA.

There are two claims made by the article:

1) Canada Post argues that it is the exclusive copyright holder of all Canadian postal codes
If the issue is #1, then this is truly asinine, in my opinion. I am no scholar of copyright law, especially how it is applied in Canada. This claim may or may not be true. However, I could find no evidence the the Canada Post made such a claim. I may not have searched through the links provided with enough thoroughness. But, could it be that the author of the article either assumed it, or simply made it up? Does anyone have support for this claim, which to me seems absurd?

2) Canada Post says GeoCoder appropriated the database and made unauthorized reproductions.
If the issue is #2 They claim that there were "unauthorized reproductions" of their database made. This could be a legitimate copyright infringement. Again. I see no evidence that Canada Post makes this claim either.

In fact, I see no mention of "copyright" other than in the article. There is just this post:
http://geocoder.ca/?sued=1 [geocoder.ca] ... which states that Canada Post is suing for lost revenue.

Now, these claims may in fact be true, and I don't necessarily doubt them. I would however like to see solid links to sources, for instance the text of the lawsuit. It's difficult to figure out what is fact and what is speculation.

Re:Some conflicts with this story (3, Funny)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687073)

The URL having sued=1 in it is making it hard for me to stop laughing.

Re:Some conflicts with this story (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687111)

http://geocoder.ca/?sued=nope-not-even-a-little [geocoder.ca]

Wow. I thought maybe I could undermine the lawsuit with hacking. Nope. Didn't work.

Re:Some conflicts with this story (4, Informative)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687215)

If you read the Statement of Defence on that page, in section 29 they pretty clearly outline why this is nonsense:

29. The Plaintiff's claim to copyright in the CPC Database would lead to absurd results. Individual Canadians and businesses regularly and frequently collect and use postal codes in address books, mailing lists, customer lists, supplier lists, and an infinite variety of lists. If the Plaintiff's assertion of
copyright in the CPC Database were well founded, all of these collections of addresses and the postal codes therein would reproduce parts of the CPC Database and so would infringe copyright. The result would be copyright infringement on a massive, near-universal scale, since none of these uses are
licensed. Entire fields of economic activity – directory publishers, database distributors, online lookup tools, even telephone directories such as the Yellow Pages – would overnight be relegated to the status of infringers.

Also, it is of note that GeoCoder is saying even the Canada Post corp doesn't own the copyright, and that the database cannot be copyrighted as a collection of facts:

26. Even though Geolytica did not copy the CPC Database, Canada Post also does not own copyright in the CPC Database as a compilation. Geolytica denies the Plaintiff's claim to the contrary at paragraph 5 of the Statement of Claim.
27. Geolytica pleads that the CPC Database is itself a fact. The CPC Database can only substantially take on one form, wherein this compilation of facts remains a non-copyrightable fact.
28. Further, the selection and arrangement of data into the CPC Database involves no skill and judgment. Although there may have been an exertion of labour to establish a postal code designation system, Canada Post Corporation did not, and does not, exert a non-trivial amount of skill and judgment to create and maintain the CPC Database. The CPC Database simply collects “all the postal codes”. This is a “collection”, not a “selection” or “arrangement”. Nor does the Canada Post Corporation exhibit skill or judgement in collecting “all the postal codes”.

Simpliefed to... (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687655)

I will simplify it for you.

Just more government-union greed.

Postal codes are by defacto public information. Just desperate for money Posties want a royalty. Should just say stuff it.

Re:Some conflicts with this story (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687875)

The plaintiff's filing is provided as a series of 1-page PDFs (!?) via links after the text "The full Scoop" at the bottom of the page at the URL you kindly provide in your post.

As for your two points:

  1. The statement of defense claims: 'Contrary to to the Plaintiff's assertion at
    paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim that "Her Majesty's copyright to the CPC Database was
    transferred to Canada Post" under section 63 of the Canada Post Corporation, no section 63 of the
    current Canada Post Corporation Act even exists.'
  2. See the third page of the plaintiff's filing [geocoder.ca] .

Re:Some conflicts with this story (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688473)

As Mathinker comments below, links to the actual legal documents are there on geocoder's website on the footer of the page.

postal codes should be public domain (4, Interesting)

morethanapapercert (749527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687021)

Postal codes were created by Canada Post for its own convenience in sorting and delivering mail. On that level, the data belongs to Canada Post and only they can change it. However; Canada Post is a crown corporation, all the data it generates is done using a mixture of public funds and postage revenues. Just as with scientific research results, I argue that the use of public funds mandates that the resulting data be freely accessible to anyone. Canada Post can not stop anyone from publishing this data, even for profit. I note that in my province, and presumably all the others, there are phone books other than the one published by Bell. These local phone directories include postal codes as part of the address listings as a vale-add to differentiate themselves from the more well known Bell phone directories.

Canada Post hasn't sought to stop these directories from including the postal codes, so I don't believe it should seek to stop an online publication either.

In other respects, Canada Post has shown itself to be a fairly forward thinker for a government operation. To me, the fact that Geolytica has created their website is proof that there is a market opportunity there that Canada Post has overlooked. Canada Post could; and I dare say should, simply out compete Geolytica by creating a more comprehensive and easier to use web page of its own. Canada Post might not be able to compete with the US listings Geolytica also has, but I think there is much room for improvement on the look and feel of the web page itself. (How many run of the mill users even know the difference between HTML, XML and JSON let alone *care*? geocoder.ca uses google maps, but it doesn't look as if they took any design ideas from Google)

Re:postal codes should be public domain (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687235)

Canada post is entirely free of govn't cash lately - it is self sustaining off of postage costs and such.

Though they used to be a direct arm of the government, and presumably got all the (previously govn't) real estate, trucks, etc, gifted to them. (30 years ago or so)... so that should make things easier.

Re:postal codes should be public domain (1)

green1 (322787) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687309)

wouldn't that bunch of stuff "gifted to them" include the list of postal codes? As in the ones created before they stopped being an arm of the government?

Re:postal codes should be public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687479)

According to the Wikipedia page about Canadian postal codes [wikipedia.org] , they were implemented in the early 1970s. Canada Post [wikipedia.org] didn't turn into a Crown Corporation until the 1980s.

So, yes, the postal code system originated while it was part of the government.

Re:postal codes should be public domain (3, Informative)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688225)

Canada post is entirely free of govn't cash lately - it is self sustaining off of postage costs and such.

No. That would imply it has privatized, and it has not.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Post_Corporation#Privatization [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_corporations_of_Canada#Federal [wikipedia.org]

You might be thinking of Air Canada?

Re:postal codes should be public domain (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687405)

I don't know this as fact, but I would put money on Canada Post charging for these other phone directories to put the postal codes in. Even Geocoder says that Canada Post does this, they quote it being around $5000 per copy of the database.

And Canada Post has an easy to use, comprehensive webpage [canadapost.ca] where you can search for listings.

How can postal codes be "copyrighted" ??? (2)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687023)

A postal code is a short numeric sequence that makes it easier for the postman to deliver a package/letter to the right building/apartment. It is really not much different, functionally speaking, from a telephone number, an email address or a room number. Are telephone numbers copyrighted? Don't think so. Are email addresses copyrighted? I've never heard of such a thing. Copyrighting room numbers in a building? Not even technically possible. And who pays for postal codes to be created/used in the first place? The Canadian taxpayer. That should make postal codes a "public good", owned collectively by the taxpaying Canadian public. Creating a free listing of postal codes, where anyone can look up postal codes, is a convenience, and a service rendered to the public. And a good one too, since it is "free", and nobody profits from it. Besides, if search engines can index the entire f___ing Internet, without anyone crying "Oy! That's my copyrighted webpage you are indexing!", how can a simple "Canadian postal code lookup function" be a breach of copyright? If the article is correct, the site in question didn't even copy the Postal Services postal code database. It built its own, from user contributions. I really don't see how "copyright" even figures into this case...

Re:How can postal codes be "copyrighted" ??? (1)

Epimer (1337967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687257)

It's the database of copyrights which a copyright claim has been brought with respect to, not the postal codes themselves. Databases are protected by copyright (disclaimer: in the jurisdictions I know about, which don't include Canada), but individual postal codes would not be.

Re:How can postal codes be "copyrighted" ??? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687367)

Whilst I don't necessarily agree that this is a copyright issue (see below), there are a number of problems with your arguments:

The Canadian taxpayer did pay for it, whilst supporting the state funded Canada Post. When companies pay the $5000 to buy the database, that makes it $5000 cheaper for the rest of the Canadian taxpayers to send mail - that money has to be found from somewhere after all. Ergo, net benefit to the Canadian taxpayer.

There isn't a public listing of email addresses - unlike both phone numbers and postal codes. That list you've been selling spammers doesn't count.

I understand that most search engines don't actually contain a copy of the page - merely references too it. Many search engines contain a hash of the page to tell when it's been changed, and keywords associated with the page. But again there's a good to society - people post pages on the 'net because they want society to read them, and search engines allow people to find those pages. The fact that search engines make money from those searches means they can continue to make those searches available to the public.

Whilst telephone numbers are not copyrighted, the phone books that phone companies hand out certainly are. I've heard rumours that the companies put in false data in them, which makes detection of copyright infringement much easier.

As for a free listing where the Canadian taxpaying public can look up address: Try this one Canada Post's own search engine [canadapost.ca] . They even have apps for that.

Having said all that, I agree - I'm not sure how this is a copyright issue. It's obviously not misappropriation of data, because it's crowd sourced data (i.e. they didn't hack into Canada Post and steal it). Royal Mail did a similar thing not so long ago, sued a company for copyright infringement that was serving up UK postcodes. I don't remember how that case turned out.

The only way I can see this is a case for copyright is that copyright is a legal instrument created for the benefit of society by creating a monopoly, and that Canada Post and Royal Mail being able to make money from the databases to lower their costs for the benefit of the taxpayer serves a benefit to society.

Re:How can postal codes be "copyrighted" ??? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687771)

A postal code is a short alphanumeric sequence that makes it easier for the postman to deliver a package/letter to the right building/apartment.

FTFY. We're talking about Canada here.

For your edification (2)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688363)

Please try to keep in mind, these laws are old, and not being under the reign of a monarch is new. These issues will affect every former UK colony.

It is really not much different, functionally speaking, from a telephone number, an email address or a room number. Are telephone numbers copyrighted? Don't think so. Are email addresses copyrighted? I've never heard of such a thing.

Australia and NZ are still hashing it out, actually.
http://www.baldwins.com/australian-and-new-zealand-copyright-law-for-databases-compilations-and-directories/ [baldwins.com]

And who pays for postal codes to be created/used in the first place? The Canadian taxpayer. That should make postal codes a "public good", owned collectively by the taxpaying Canadian public. Creating a free listing of postal codes, where anyone can look up postal codes, is a convenience, and a service rendered to the public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_copyright#Canada [wikipedia.org]
"Permission to reproduce Government of Canada works, in part or in whole, and by any means, for personal or public non-commercial purposes, or for cost-recovery purposes, is not required, unless otherwise specified in the material you wish to reproduce."

And a good one too, since it is "free", and nobody profits from it.

The "otherwise specified" part would seem to be the $5000 Canada Post wants to charge for its directory. Which it has the right to do. Statistics Canada also charges for its data, one of the few places where government documents are not free. Why? Because information has value. The Do Not Call List has a trivial price attached to it, and has been exploited to high hell because foreign telemarketers can afford to do it and are not bound by our laws. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Do_Not_Call_List#Criticism [wikipedia.org]

Besides, if search engines can index the entire f___ing Internet, without anyone crying "Oy! That's my copyrighted webpage you are indexing!",

Ok, now you're just starting to look silly and ill informed...
http://searchengineland.com/proposed-uk-law-would-immunize-search-engines-against-copyright-claims-33336 [searchengineland.com]
http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/04/08/industry-google-afp-dc-idUSN0728115420070408 [reuters.com]
http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/1457-Search-Engines-Indexing-and-Copyright-Law [practicalecommerce.com]
http://www.blogstudiolegalefinocchiaro.com/wordpress/?p=258 [blogstudio...chiaro.com]

how can a simple "Canadian postal code lookup function" be a breach of copyright? If the article is correct, the site in question didn't even copy the Postal Services postal code database. It built its own, from user contributions. I really don't see how "copyright" even figures into this case...

It's not the engine, it's the data. Postal codes were *authored*, there is no question about that.

Why? (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687075)

A guy creates a site that makes it easier for customer's to use their service, why the hell are they suing him?

Re:Why? (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687133)

That's the point here. Why the hell would anyone want to sue someone over a postal code? You're not going to make enough money to even cover your legal bills.

Re:Why? (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687911)

On the last page of his filing, the defendent petitions the court to address the lawsuit as a Simplified Action (something similar to small-claims, I suppose) because he claims the damages could not possibly exceed $50k.

Re:Why? (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688539)

If it's small claims, why the hell did they hire what the future defendant called (wording mine) the top IP litigation company?

Lookig up postal codes is free (1)

1800maxim (702377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687703)

on Canada Post website. What's the problem?

Stop Illegal Postal Code Sharing! (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687079)

This blatant and unlawful activity must stop. Every day millions of post items are sent with Postal Codes illegally and unlawfully printed on them by people not under the employ or direction of the Postal Service.

We must start a campaign to get people to stop placing these postal codes on their post so that the Postal Service can rightfully keep their Postal Code System all to themselves.

Re:Stop Illegal Postal Code Sharing! (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687187)

That was my first thought too. If Canada Post is truly claiming copyright on apost code DB, then where do you draw the line? How much of the database can someone use before they are infringing copyright? If it's one line, then everyone needs to stop using Canadian postcodes until this issue is resolved or they risk being sued. A few dozen? Well, that's all but the smallest of businesses still screwed. A few hundred? Still snarling up larger businesses there... A few thousand then? Nope. The likes of utility companies and the Canadian Government are still going to be infringing...

I think that argument is so asinine that it's going to get laughed out of court, if it even gets that far. Have they retained the same lawyers as Music Canada (AKA the Canadian Recording Industry Association) by any chance?

Re:Stop Illegal Postal Code Sharing! (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687671)

That was my first thought too. If Canada Post is truly claiming copyright on apost code DB, then where do you draw the line?

Very simple. They should have the copyright on their postcode database, so nobody should be allowed to copy their database without licensing it. However, anybody else should be allowed to independently collect the information and create their own independent postcode database.

So sue EVERYONE (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687101)

If postcodes are copyright, then everyone who uses one should be paying a license fee, right?

Just point this out, then everyone stops using the postcode, and see how quickly they come around when they have to employ many, many more sorting staff for each post office.

Re:So sue EVERYONE (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687201)

If postcodes are copyright, then everyone who uses one should be paying a license fee, right?

No. Copyright is the right to copy, not the right to profit. If you copy something and give it away for free, you are just as guilty of copyright infringment as if you sold the copies.

GPLed software is free. It is still copyrighted.

Re:So sue EVERYONE (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687851)

Actually, I'm pretty sure that Canada Post isn't under any real obligation to deliver packages that don't have a postal code given. If you go to a post office to drop off a package you want to send, they won't even accept it if it doesn't have a postal code on it. Also, if there is no postal code on a letter that was dropped in a mailbox, then they tend to deliver it when they "get around to it"... which can take a *VERY* long time. On the order of months.

CP is Price-Gauging (2)

benad (308052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687119)

From personal experience, Canada Post increased ten-fold their database licensing costs. My company tried to negotiate, and the best CP proposed is some rebates for the first two years, so of course we had to drop them. So, Geocoder, good luck!

Re:CP is Price-Gauging (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687657)

Out of interest, how much did Canada Post want to charge for their database?

Re:CP is Price-Gauging (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688285)

Fuck this, I'm moving to the U.S. Seriously, though, did you consider just copying it 30 miles south where facts aren't kidnapped by copyright. I know the Americans are pretty fucked up, but you could host just the database, send hashed addresses and get back postal codes.

Stop using postal codes on letters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687123)

I think that there is only one solution to a - stupid (IMO) - claim like this.

Stop using postalcodes when posting letters to/in Canada.
I - for one - wouldn't like to be using copyrighted information on letters I'm sending.

Mabe Canada Post would think twice before claiming copyright on information that benefits them.

undefended copyright... (0)

Lord Dreamshaper (696630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687181)

assume for a second that they have a valid copyright claim; I mean they created it, and, utltimately, it is only of significance to us if we are using their services. i mean who adds a postal code to an envelope they plan to deliver by hand?

how often have you seen postal codes being distributed? every advertisement (print, televeision, radio, etc), contact info page of every website, every form you fill out with personal information...how many instances is that? thousands? more likely millions? Now how many have been sued for publication of copyrighted information?

None.

Now that someone is directly monetizing that information, Canada Post wants to play the copyright right card, but the horse has left the barn. For better or worse, they have to show that they've always vigourously defended their copyrights in the past, otherwise it's fair game like Aspirin or Kleenex. I'm not a fan of that aspect of law, but it is what it is and Canada Post is too late to the copyright game.

Hell, try mailing something by courier and you still need a postal code. That's as direct a competition as you can get; the most immediate example of copyright violation, but I don't think they've ever sued FedEx (Purolator is partially or wholly owned by Canada Post, so I've heard, so maybe they can use postal codes), so going after Geolytica seems a stretch.

Re:undefended copyright... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687301)

> otherwise it's fair game like Aspirin or Kleenex

Could you stop assuming that every country in the word use the USA laws ?
Thankfully, it's not the case.
Common law is already terrible and it's even worse in the states.

I'm so glade to live in a country using roman law.

Re:undefended copyright... (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687509)

It may also be that FedEx, UPS, Purolator and other couriers have already splashed out the $5000 to buy a copy of the database, in order to make the delivery of their mail easier.

Also, Copyright != Trademarks. In order to defend a trademark, you have to be actively using it. Not so with copyright.

The reason why Canada Post hasn't sued the companies you describe is because it benefits them for those post codes be out there - it encourages companies and people to use Canada Post's services.

Re:undefended copyright... (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687969)

For better or worse, they have to show that they've always vigourously defended their copyrights in the past, otherwise it's fair game like Aspirin or Kleenex

You are conflating copyrights and trademarks.

They are different. Trademarks must be defended as you describe. Copyrights do not.

Tele-Direct (Publications) Inc. (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687209)

In the US, this issue was settled in Feist vs. Rural Telephone, which was about copyright in telephone directories. The US Supreme Court ruled that such collections of facts are not copyrightable on constitutional grounds. In Canada, there's Tele-Direct (Publications) Inc. v. American Business Information, Inc [canlii.org] , which covers much the same ground. "Labour alone not determinative of originality ... Compilation so obvious, commonplace not meriting copyright protection."

I'm surprised CanadaPost even raised the issue.

Re:Tele-Direct (Publications) Inc. (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687965)

Their legal council seem to have a terrific imagination, if the defense can be believed. From page 5 of the defense filing:

Contrary to to the Plaintiff's assertion at paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim that "Her Majesty's copyright to the CPC Database was transferred to Canada Post" under section 63 of the Canada Post Corporation, no section 63 of the current Canada Post Corporation Act even exists. Neither does the Act that came into force in 1981 transfer such title.

To quote Bugs Bunny® ... (1)

hedronist (233240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687375)

... what a bunch of maroons [youtube.com] !

Ok, they own that info... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687399)

Since they think they own it, everyone should stop putting postal codes on the letters they send.

Jedi mind tricks (1)

mj1856 (589031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687419)

The best part is how the plaintiff claims that their case depends on "Section 63" of the CPC act. There is no section 63!
http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-10/ [justice.gc.ca]

This is a slippery slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39687511)

If this is found to be the case, then it's not much more of a stretch for the US to argue that GPS co-ordinates are copyrighted and belong to them too.

Re:This is a slippery slope (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688349)

Longitude and latitude existed long before the US government was born. I doubt they can even attempt to make that claim.

Posting a letter... (1)

gedeco (696368) | more than 2 years ago | (#39687995)

Is a copyright violation in Canada, because of the postal code?

Protest by sending mail without postal codes (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688227)

They still rely on city and province as a fall back, right? Seems if they are "copyrighted" then you should send mail without using the postal codes.

If it's done on my dime (tax) it's not copyrighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688279)

Canada Post is paid by the tax payers. I don't believe anything that is paid by tax payers should be copyrightable, with exception of trademark names, to which could lead to confusion for some people if there were 5 companies named Canada Post for example. Additionally, I don't believe you can file for copyright infringement for a non-profit project / product if they're not damaging your name in any way. And to copyright a 6-digit / character combination is ridiculous. This along with all of those protests to get paid more, just further demands the Canada Post to be eliminated from the federal budget entirely. They have no sense and are just another tax burden for Canadians. Perhaps we could set an example by getting rid of our tax-funded postal service.

The posties get kind of testy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39688315)

The posties around my neck of the woods get kind of testy about mail that doesn't have a postal code on it. Anything that makes it easier to get the right code should be a good thing right?

I mean, what is Canada Post going to do about it? Lock up the codes, keeping them from people? If people don't include the codes, it makes it harder for them to route the mail.

Dumbasses.

Facts are not copyrightable. (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39688531)

At least not in the US, but I'm pretty sure that applies to Canada also. If they did indeed crowd-source the data, this lawsuit should be DOA.

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