How to amend PAF® licensing?


One suggestion for what to do with the PAF License – thanks to for this pic of Crushed Cars

Royal Mail just launched a consultation on simplifying the PAF license, actually you can only view their proposals at the moment as the consultation portal isn’t yet open for comments but at least it gives you a head start to formulate your opinions.

It seems to me that Royal Mail are the most unreformed anti OpenData organisation within the public sector. Buoyed up by their inflated ideas of the value of the business in its forthcoming flotation (big windfall opportunity for senior management), the weak kneed support of BIS for privatising PAF and the reluctance of the Cabinet Office to beat them over the head with an OpenData stick, they are now consulting on how to simplify their licensing rather than just making this national data infrastructure freely available as the ODI and a host of other contributors to addressing discussions have demanded.

Even after the humiliating debacle of their abandoned PinPoint initiative (I wonder what that PinPointless idea cost them?) Royal Mail press on trying to retain their stranglehold on addresses, surely it is only a matter of time before the OpenData community combine with addressing managers in Local Government to bypass Royal Mail and create an Open Address File?

In their consultation document RM set out some principles that have guided their licensing and pricing

In preparing a simplified PAF® licensing framework and pricing model we have been guided by the following principles:
1. To continue to provide access to accurate, high quality PAF® data on reasonable terms
2. To ensure that licensing terms are shorter, simpler, and written in plain English
3. To recognise and understand our customers and be clear about how we intend to serve and support them
4. To continue to incentivise the wider take up and use of PAF® data
5. To continue to protect Royal Mail’s IP within PAF®
6. To ensure that current levels of income derived from PAF® licensing are maintained for Royal Mail
7. To ensure that any new licence does not breach competition law and meets the requirements laid down in the PSA 2011 and is aligned with Ofcom regulations
8. To seek swift deployment of a PAF® Public Sector Licence

The red (oh no!), amber (watch out!), green categorisation (about time too!) is mine not RM’s, no colour (OK).

There then follows pages and pages of different models which will sap your will to live let alone license PAF under these new models. In fairness if your current licensing is as complex and opaque as the current PAF licensing is then these new models may be simpler but they are still founded on the crazy presumption that a data set used to help delivery of our letters and parcels and partly built from data supplied for free by Local Government should then be considered Royal Mail’s IP and resold at a profit.

I wonder what portion of the total value of Royal Mail has been ascribed to retaining PAF in the forthcoming sell off? It appears that RM management have convinced BIS and the Treasury that it is a pretty colossal sum to get them to ignore ODI and the Cabinet Office. It would be interesting to see the calculations of how the ongoing charge to government for the Public Sector PAF license will compare with the notional added value from including PAF in the sell off. It just seems unbelievable to me that government will allow this crazy situation to continue.

What betting that if government goes ahead with the privatisation of PAF that the new owners will find ways to exploit loopholes in the regulations and increase prices and restrictions on usage within a couple of years? This will end in tears.

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