Canada Post sues crowdsourced postal-code database, claims copyright in Canadian postal-codes

Michael Geist sez,

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 crowdsourced 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, which is being represented by CIPPIC, filed its statement of defence yesterday. The defence explains how GeoCoder managed to compile a postal code database by using crowdsource techniques without any reliance on Canada Post's database. The site created street address look-up service in 2004 with users often including a postal code within their query. The site retained the postal code information and gradually developed its own database with the postal codes (a system not unlike many marketers that similarly develop databases by compiling this information). The company notes that it has provided access to the information for free for the last eight years and that it is used by many NGOs for advocacy purposes.

While GeoCoder makes for a fascinating case study on generating crowdsourced information, the legal issues raised by the case should attract widespread attention. Key issues include whether there is any copyright in postal codes, questions on whether Canada Post owns copyright in the database if there is copyright, and a denial that the crowdsourced version of the database - independently created by GeoCoder - infringes the copyright of the Canada Post database.

Canada Post Files Copyright Lawsuit Over Crowdsourced Postal Code Database

Map shows NYC's energy consumption, building-by-building


Gmoke sez, "This statistical model uses 'zipcode-level energy consumption data to estimate the average annual energy use for every tax lot—at practically building level—through all five boroughs of the city.' Included are estimateans for space heating, space cooling, water heating, and base electric applications such as lighting. 'This map will enable NYC building owners to see whether their own building consumes more or less than what an average building with similar function and size would,' said Professor Modi. 'This is the first time anyone has provided an estimate like this for New York City and the first time anyone has offered information to the public in the form of an interactive map.'"

“This is a critical issue,” said Modi. “While discussions frequently focus on electricity use, homes in New York City, whether a townhouse or a large apartment building, use far more energy in form of heat rather than electricity. Nearly all of this heat is obtained from heating oil or natural gas. In addition, current electricity distribution infrastructure in many urban areas relies on large amounts of electricity brought in from outside the city, making it difficult to support increased future use without requiring significant investment of resources and funds. We are looking at ways we can address both these issues—reducing our heating bills and increasing local electricity generation capacity.”

Model Created to Map Energy Use in NYC Buildings (Thanks, Gmoke!)

French court rules that it's illegally anticompetitive for Google to provide free maps API


A French court has ruled that Google's free Google Maps application API is anti-competitive and has ordered the company to pay €500,000 to Bottin Cartographes, a for-pay map company, as well as a €15,000 fine. Bottin Cartographes argued that Google was only planning to give away the service for free until all the competitors had been driven out of business and then they would start charging. This seems implausible to me, and contrary to Google's business model (give away services, make money from mining the use of those services). Google says it will appeal.

"This is the end of a two-year battle, a decision without precedent," said the lawyer for Bottin Cartographes, Jean-David Scemmama.

"We proved the illegality of (Google's) strategy to remove its competitors... the court recognised the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed. This is the first time Google has been convicted for its Google Maps application," he said.

I wonder what Bottin Cartographes will do when OpenStreetMaps finishes producing high-quality, free, public domain maps of France that can be used to create APIs of the same scope and utility?

France convicts Google Maps for unfair competition (via Engadget)