Canada Post has publicly released a chunk of its postal code database, even as it continues to pursue a lawsuit against a small start-up for also giving away postal codes for free.
Last spring, the Crown corporation launched a lawsuit against Geolytica for providing a free online database of Canadian postal codes.
Canada Post charges companies access to its copyrighted postal code database and says it loses major revenue when people dole out that information for free.
The base fee is about $5,500 a year, though it can run higher depending on what a company's using it for. One company told QMI Agency it pays roughly $50,500 to access the data.
But on Tuesday, Canada Post released much of that data through Statistics Canada, that shows geographic boundaries of the first three letters of every postal code in the country.
"This really has nothing to do with the Geolytica case," said Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier.
"We do have a licence agreement with Statistics Canada that allows, under specific conditions, for the publication of the forward sortation area information."
The data comes with a copyright disclaimer.
Still, Geolytica co-founder Ervin Ruci sees the release as a positive step.
"It is a step in the right direction for Canada Post to release a tiny chunk of their data. I hope it is followed by more concrete steps to end their stated position of having copyright over certain facts," he wrote in an e-mail to QMI Agency,
That's what Geolytica argues postal codes are: Facts. Canada Post, on the other hand, says the codes are copyrighted information, which the Crown corporation spends time and money to maintain.
Open data activist David Eaves told Postmedia that Canada Post is an outlier in a world where government agencies are embracing open data, not locking information away.
Ruci, who was originally worried that a lawsuit from a company with deep pockets would bankrupt his small operation, says that's no longer the case.
The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic is representing Geolytica pro-bono, and the company has raised $3,000 from the public.
"At the end of this matter -- I hope there is an end soon -- I will donate all the remaining money, if that is the case," Ruci said.
Geolytica runs the geocoding site geocoder.ca, which turns street addresses into geographic co-ordinates, usually latitude and longitude, so they can be mapped.
Social media services routinely use geocoding services to build maps or let people sign into locations on their phones.
Geolytica says it generates its information from users who upload their addresses, not from Canada Post.