Canada Post drops legal claim over crowdsourced postal code database

Canada Post claimed a "crown copyright" over the postal codes assigned to Canadian homes, meaning that Canadian organisations and businesses could only use this vital information if they paid — that is, they'd have to pay to access something their taxes already paid for, and the richer you were, the more access you could afford.

An Ottawa startup called Geocoder crowdsourced the creation of a new database, asking Canadians to send in their addresses and postal codes, and giving free access to all comers. Canada Post sued them.

Now, four years — and a change in government — later, the post office has dropped its suit.

The Canada Post lawsuit has been simmering for several years, but late last month the parties reached a settlement. Canada Post has agreed to discontinue the lawsuit and Geocoder will continue to make its database available to the public. The settlement statement acknowledges:

The postal codes returned by various geocoder interface APIs and downloadable on, are estimated via a crowdsourcing process. They are not licensed by from Canada Post, the entity responsible for assigning postal codes to street addresses.

The settlement represents a big win for open data in Canada, as the lawsuit raised serious concerns about over-broad copyright claims given suggestions that Canada Post owned the copyright in all postal codes. As Geocoder notes, CIPPIC and Ridout & Maybee provided support in contesting the lawsuit.

Canada Post Drops Lawsuit Over Crowdsourced Postal Codes
[Michael Geist]