[OSM-talk] Postcode searches in Namefinder

David Earl david at frankieandshadow.com
Tue Dec 2 09:56:32 GMT 2008

On 02/12/2008 09:07, elvin ibbotson wrote:
> Well, you learn something new every day! I never knew post codes were 
> subject to copyright. OSM has taught me it is naughty to trace off an OS 
> map or even read the name of a road from one. Now I'm worried about 
> sending letters! Should I add an extra line to the address crediting the 
> Post Office? And the rest of the address: are street names copyright 
> too? Somebody thought of the name of every street so I guess they must 
> own the copyright. Maybe I should just avoid sending letters to 
> addresses that haven't been there long enough for the copyright on the 
> postcode (and street name?) to expire. Now, is that 50 or 60 years? I 
> forget. Correction: I don't care.

It's not that any individual postcode is copyright: it's bulk use that's 
the problem in the UK. There is this thing called "database copyright" 
which allows you to copyright a collection of data to protect the 
investment you made in collecting it (never mind that in this case that 
was public investment - database copyright is an international concept, 
but it is the UK that chooses to apply it to public data).

So there's no problem about putting postcodes into OSM if you have a 
source for them that isn't a bulk data entry directly or indirectly from 
the Royal Mail database (which is commonly known as the "PAF file". If 
you knock on doors and ask people what their postcode is (and that's 
effectively what freethepostcode is trying to do electronically), you're 

Also, it's not just postcodes, it's the geolocation of those postcodes 
which is important to us, and isn't relevant (to you) when you're 
sending a letter.

Street names are facts, and you can't copyright facts. But if you use 
someone's list of street names, that's subject to their database copyright.

Population census data, as we discussed last week, also has the same 


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