One Step Forward, Two Steps Back - Ernest Marples and the Idiocy of the Royal Mail

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Royal FailWell, it happened. today, the Royal Mail have issued with a takedown notice, demanding that the service be taken down immediately under pain of legal action.

For those of you who don’t know, Ernest Marples was / is a system that provided not-for-profit sites (such as HealthWhere,, Planning Alerts and, by extension Twitterplan) with latitude and longitude data from postcodes, which means that people can get information about their areas with only their postcode.

Because Ernest Marples has been served with this notice, none of these sites can function, meaning the Royal Mail (who are supposed to be a public service) are directly responsible for taking away a wealth of useful tools from the public it’s supposed to serve.

Judging by the flurry of outcry on Twitter, the Royal Mail are not a popular bunch because of this decision, and have really shot themselves in the foot PR wise.

Instead of getting heavy-handed with the lawyers, why didn’t they enter with a dialogue with Harry and Richard (the people behind the site) and try and come up with an alternative license for volunteer-built, community focused sites of this nature?

I can sort of understand them wanting to protect their revenue stream (although it’s arguable that this data should be in the public domain anyway), but because these sites are built by volunteers and make no money, they aren’t going to have the funding to fork out the £4k per year to have access to the official postcode database - so the Royal Mail aren’t losing out on any extra cash anyway. All they’ve done is picked up their ball and gone off in a strop, meaning no one can play anymore.

I’m hoping that something can be worked out, because it’d be a crying shame if this service (or something similar) didn’t get going again.

Update: I’ve submitted a petition to Number 10 about this, not sure how much good it’ll do, but it’s worth a try! Please sign, retweet, pass around by any means you can!