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 (GeoCoder argues that postal codes are facts that are not subject to copyright, noting to conclude otherwise would result in “copyright infringement on a massive, near-universal scale”), questions on whether Canada Post owns copyright in the database if there is copyright (Canada Post relies on a section in the Canada Post Corporation Act that does not appear to exist), and a denial that the crowdsourced version of the database – independently created by GeoCoder – infringes the copyright of the Canada Post database.
Moreover, the defence also raises copyright claims such as the public interest (“to allow copyright to restrict the ability of Canadians to distribute, collect and aggregate their postal codes â€“ which is all Geolytica has done â€“ would have severely detrimental consequences for the public interest”), copyright misuse (“Canada Post Corporation’s over-broad copyright claims demonstrates its practice of anti-competitively asserting monopoly over Canada’s postal code system”), and the prospect that the Canada Post claim is statute-barred.
The case could certainly generate some notable intervenors. For marketers that have independently developed and marketed their own databases that include postal code information, they could face similar copyright claims by Canada Post and may need to support GeoCoder. Given the government’s emphasis on open data, the federal government may have something to say about Canada Post’s efforts to restrict public compilation and distribution of postal code information. Moreover, with many groups relying on GeoCoder’s information for affordable access to postal code data to engage in political advocacy, Canadian courts may hear why ensuring continued access to GeoCoder’s compiled data is in the public interest.