The Italian Post Office was privatized recently, and they pulled the freely downloadable database of Italian postcodes, right before introducing a new series of postcodes, extensive changes to existing ones, and a new rule by which they would refuse the delivery of any letter with an imprecise postcode on it. Simultaneously they started selling a CD version of the database for several thousand Euros. The Italian public was understandably upset, and it took only about a month for a project from Free Software Foundation Europe to recreate, and liberate the database which is now accessible again to users, and software developers, independently from Poste Italiane’s.
It is sometimes confusing to read posts about intellectual property policies in the US, which is very clear with regards to data gathered with public money (it is in the public domain), and realize that things are not like that in Europe at all. I don’t think some swindle like the one made by Poste Italiane could have happened over there. Images from NASA, atmospheric data from USGS, etc. are all clearly available. It is a policy that should be adopted all over the EU with the same clarity.
Update (24-11-06: Boing Boing covered this story in a post, and I am very honoured to be boingboinged for the second time, after an other post I made about Eric Drexler’s book on nanotechnology. I am glad that the hosting service of my site at Questar (full discosure: I am CEO of Questar) is robust as that post received a spike of thousands of visits. Italian postcodes are evidently less relevant, since the traffic surge from this is much lower.