The Ernest Marples web site has been closed down following threats of legal action from the Royal Mail. The web site had been providing a free postcode lookup service – you give them a postcode and they return the latitude and longitude of a point within that postcode. This can be used in things like a “find your nearest…” service.
Unfortunately, use this data is controlled by the Royal Mail and they like to charge exorbitant fees for it. The people behind Ernest Marples haven’t said where their data comes from but the Royal Mail are acting under the assumption that it’s an unlicensed copy of their database and have threatened to take legal action if the service continues.
It’s ridiculous that in the UK postcode data can be subject to usage restrictions like this. There have been a number of campaigns to free data like this but, so far, progress has been slow. I don’t the people behind the Ernest Marples site, but I suspect that they knew it was just a matter of time before the Royal Mail came after them and I also suspect that they are hoping to shine a little light on the absurdity of the situation.
There are a couple of things you can do to help the situation. Firstly, sign the petition asking for free access to postcode data for non-profit web sites. Secondly, go to the Free The Postcode web site and give them your current postcode and location. They’re trying to build up a list of postcodes and locations which doesn’t rely on any data from the Royal Mail. Currently they have about 8,000 postcodes in their database There are about 1,800,000 in the country. So there is a long way to go. But every little helps. Please do your bit today.