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.
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