NY Times Picks Up On The Fact That Craigslist Has Become A Legal Bully Against Anyone Who Makes Its Site Better

from the sad-to-see dept

We've written a few times about how Craigslist, for all the good things it's done over the years, has lately turned into a legal bully against any site that makes its offering more useful. That's significant for a variety of reasons. First off, Craigslist's own site continues to be woefully out of date, and increasingly less useful in its current form. But, more importantly, Craigslist has often led the charge for a more open internet, yet seems to react legally when such an open internet creates new and useful services built off its own work.

Even the NY Times is now taking note of Craigslist's legal-bullying ways, even catching Craig Newmark himself (who I know and like) being less than forthright in how the company attacks all sorts of other sites with legal threats and lawsuits. First, it lists out a number of other threats that Craigslist has sent out over the years:
One, a site called Craigs Little Buddy, could search multiple Craigslist cities at once — a simple feature that Craigslist doesn’t offer. Another site, Craigsly, helped people set up e-mail alerts when a certain type of listing, like a specific car or apartment for sale, was posted in their area. Another, Ziink Craigslist Helper, which offered a free browser plug-in that made navigating listings easier, was also shut down by Craigslist lawyers.
Later, it notes that Craig has claimed that they only go after sites that "consume a lot of bandwidth." That statement sounds slightly more defensible, even as bandwidth has gotten cheaper and cheaper over the years, and most crawlers really aren't that intrusive. Also, if that were the case, why not first try expanding its robots.txt file to see if the crawlers respect that?

But, in this case, Craig is not being truthful. The lawsuit we wrote about last week, against Padmapper and 3taps, does not appear to involve companies that consume a lot of Craigslists' bandwidth. 3taps claims that it actually pulls the data from Google's cache, and PadMapper was using 3taps for its Craigslist data.

I have tremendous respect for Craig and CEO Jim Buckmaster for many of the things they've done over the years. And I've regularly defended them on Techdirt when others went after them for things. But I find these legal actions perplexing, at best. It's one thing to not like others improving on your work. But to send the lawyers after them is just flat out bullying, from an organization who should know better.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Difster (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 3:35am

    API Maybe?

    Hey Newmark, why don't you publish an API and perhaps charge a bit based on usage or something like that instead of remaining so closed and using legal threats. Open it up a bit so people can do some more useful things to make it better.

    Either that or make it better yourself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 3:59am

    Craigslist is prime for upgrade or being usurped by something more modern. It looks like one of the first webpages that has never been upgraded. They could really leverage their own position into something great or be seen to let it get away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:08am

    Craig is just taking your advice

    Legal bullying is one of those new business models that seem to be working for tech companies. For now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:12am

    "why not first try expanding its robots.txt file to see if the crawlers respect that?"

    Mike, are you that innocent? Do you think a site called "graigsly" is going to suddenly stop searching CL just because they put something in the robots.txt? wow.

    I would love to live in your dream world. Is the sky green too?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:13am

    doesn't change the fact that they are basically stealing craigslist info and making money on it on their own website, thats leeching of the worst kind, and pirate mike of course defends it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:15am

    your website is " woefully out of date, and increasingly less useful in its current form" the only way to make your site "more useful" is to block all the adds and all the crawlers trying to steal my info and track my internet habit

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:41am

    OffTopic / OnTopic - So, what's next for CNN?

    A very lot is maid about MPAA and RIAA but very little is ever noted about the big picture.

    The noted article only provides a slightly bigger picture it does not explain the motivations of those ultimate responsible or even identify who they are but it does enlarge the picture by tying CNN, Times Warner, and AOL together.

    So, what's next for CNN?
    Michael Wolff on Media and Modern Life
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/01/cnn-jim-walton-time-warner

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:49am

    doesn't change the fact that they are kasically stealing craigslist info and kaking money on it on their own website, thats leeching of the worst kind, and kirate mike of course defends it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:58am

    Re:

    "Do you think a site called "graigsly" is going to suddenly stop searching CL just because they put something in the robots.txt?"

    That's when you break out the IP address blockade and publicly shame the offending party for ignoring the standard. As it stands, if Craigslist doesn't update the robots.txt, basically they are giving explicit consent for being crawled.

    Standards exist for a reason, and people like you undermine the standard. What's your next big idea? Tearing down STOP signs because some "gregsly" guy is just going to ignore it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Tor (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 4:59am

    Re:

    I think you must have skimmed over the little word "first".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:03am

    Re:

    Wow. It appears they are getting to cheap to even pay for their spam/adhom-bots to function properly now. Or should I say "kroperly kay kor kheir kpambots ko kunction kroperly"?

    It's BASICALLY with a B. MAKING with an M. And PIRATE with a P. Just fyi.

    The letters you seek, while relatively close to that magical "k", are in no way click/hittable by mistake. Your finger movements would be noticeably different enough to realize you hadn't actually hit any of the correct keys. Also, just fyi.

     

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  12.  
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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:09am

    You underestimate the power of the dark side...

    Lack of innovation is the path to the dark side.
    Lack of innovation leads to asserting your IP rights.
    Asserting IP your rights leads to lawyering up.
    Lawyering up leads to suffering.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:10am

    Re:

    Or you could just, you know, not visit this site anymore instead of not actually telling Mike how to make the site better. Which is what you should do. Instead of just criticizing. And before you say, "but Mike doesn't do that himself," let me add that he indeed does that very thing. Offers ideas and advice on how to improve a plethora of situations/products/business. Do people have to listen? No, which is their prerogative. But he's not just pulling a you and saying, "Your business sucks." Or, "Your product sucks."

    Your comments bring to mind a partial meme. "Your comment is bad and you should feel bad."

     

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  14.  
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    abc gum, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:13am

    Re:

    Your bot seems to have a problem, let's see if this can be fixed ... ahhh, here's a prob-Bzzzt-zapp (smoke)

    doesn't change the fact that they are wastically pealing cragslist winfo and baking honey on it on deir own webshite, refriends it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    drew (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:35am

    Re:

    Hmmm, the articles that Mike's hightlighted refer to tools that help the users use craigslist. I.e. the traffic is still going to craigslist, no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    gorehound (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:40am

    Re: Craig is just taking your advice

    Just look at the MAFIAA
    Bullying plus a lot of money to throw at Politicians

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    doesn't change the fact that they are basically stealing craigslist info

    If some third party has found a way to remove information from Craigslist, perhaps the Craigslist staff need to review their IT security.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 5:57am

    Re:

    And people use those other services because they are adding value. If all they were doing was "stealing" data, then no one would have a reason to go to them instead of Craigslist. But they have a reason, because Craig isn't providing it, so he's called in the lawyers to save himself from having to innovate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re:

    Wow, some great comeback, jackass.

    If the best you can do is bitch about spelling, I am sure you agree with me completely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Joe, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 7:29am

    ok, I'm going to step in, put on some armour and defend Craig Newmark here.

    The whole mantra of Craigslist is 'local'. I have an old PS3 game and a guy can swing by and take it off my hands. They don't want to be eBay. A lot of these 3rd parties are trying to do layered add-ons to accomplish this. Now I'm going to have people in all parts of the world contacting me, asking about shipping etc.

    I haven't seen them go after housingmaps.com which has been around for years because they don't interfere in the local nature of the site. Now some of these sound a little suspect - such as the email alert system. That does not seem to harm anything unless they were suspecting it was going to be used to give pro buyers an advantage over regular buyers.

    In the end, I see this as Craig trying to stop people from changing the site into something he doesn't want it to be. I don't agree with how he's doing it, but I understand why.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    I would disagree. I 'like' the stripped down interface, it's easier to deal with than the eBay-ification crap that 'new and shiny' always brings.

    Look at Woot.com's upgrade. 'Nobody' likes the new 'improved' interface. Sometimes simple is much much better than 'new'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Vic B (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 8:43am

    Re: You underestimate the power of the dark side...

    I really like this, is it haiku? So powerful! Never mind that it doesn't ryhme, you made your point short, cut.

    Innovation is hard work, try it sometime. If you ever catch it, give it away to those whose business skills will get them wealth and fame while you watch it run away.

    Then sit by the warm rock and repeat your psalm in a loop.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    what are these "adds" of which you speak? Take aways?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Someone points out your inattention to detail and you fly into an internet rage and begin with the calling the guy your momma shit. I'm behind you all the way, with a cattle prod edging you toward the abyss.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re:

    webshite": that is now in my lexicon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or you could look at the comment I posted in reply to your first one, where I pointed out that rather than bitch about Mike's website over this and that you could tell him how to make it better. Or just stop visiting the site. Either works well. Although the former is more productive and beneficial to everyone (then again, the latter seems to be that too).

    You know, actually read ALL the responses to your stupidity rather than just fly into an internet rage.

    You guys are too cute though. Insult others. Leave. Others come and point out how you can't spell correctly and try to be courteous to you (as my previous reply was) and you flip out and start saying how all I'm doing is bitching about spelling. The irony is lost on you, isn't it? To clarify, it's ironic that you're saying all I can do is bitch about your spelling when all you can do is bitch about Mike's articles. Without making anything in the way of a constructive comment towards said articles. And, for the record, I completely disagree with you. Just on principle, because I try not to ever disagree with ignorant, angry douchebags.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re: You underestimate the power of the dark side...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Joe Publius (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    I think you're totally right. There was a WIRED article from a few years back now that essentially said the same thing. Craigslist has a specific mission and vision in mind, and Newmark is going to stick with it no matter what. If Craigslist is going to change in any way Craig wants to be the one to do it, for better or worse, and if it does happen it will likely be to serve that vision of a local, and simple service.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:41am

    Re:

    Oh, please.

    The suggestion was to try that first. What's the harm? If they don't respect robots.txt, then move on to more draconian blocking.

    Apparently in your world, if you have problems with people walking through your backyard then your first move would be to shoot at them rather than, say, put up a fence. Because we all know they would just climb the fence anyway.

    I'm very glad I don't live in your world.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:44am

    An entrenched corporate interest is refusing to give customers what they want but suing anybody who tries to innovate around them while becoming increasingly outdated and irrelevant.

    Sounds like Mr. Newmark has turned into the RIAA's little brother.

    Someday somebody is going to get fed up, start an innovative competing service and eat his lunch. Of course, he'll probably sue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:45am

    Re:

    I don't agree with how he's doing it, but I understand why.


    I totally get the "why". The problem is that the "how" makes the site useless to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 11:35am

    The facist underbelly of Craigslist

    This type of behavior by Craigslist is not a surprise. Has anyone else ever had problems trying to post a classified?

    I was selling a car once and my add kept being rejected after a day or so. After delving into the recommended help forum to figure out what the problem was, I learned that the 'Craigslist community' is basically a group of self righteous rejects that are patrolling to site to eliminate anything they do not like.

    You refer to yourself as 'suicide-girl type' in your personal add? Rejected because it's to presumptuous. Want to list your motorbike (or car) for a price you think is fair? Rejected - on Craigslist people only want cheap deals.

    I know these people do not work for the site but they are part of it's culture. Craigslist 'peace sign' is as gimmicky as Google 'do no evil'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    Karate Mike?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 7:35pm

    Like all bullies, Craigslist is cowardly. You see how quickly they capitulated to the government. "Remove the adult section? Yes, sir. Anything you say, sir. You want me to kiss your boots before I shine them, sir?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Craiglist the lawn jart of online growth, Aug 4th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

    whaaaa

    we have thrown our resources behind backpage classifieds, the interface is cleaner and less strictly monitored and yes, less traffic. Craigslist reminds me of college dorm mother who cannot stand the fact that those who are furthering their education (profits) could consider anything fun, exciting or daring. Their algorithms catch the innocent in great numbers while trying to omit the few morons who spam. Its tiring and worthy of a serious technological upgrade. And if anyone can do it, its the respected brains of the very subject of this article. Bullying won't last long, it will probably be effective but its certainly not progress.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Kai (profile), Dec 16th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re:

    EXACTLY!! They have MORE than enough money to execute the same security that Amazon has. It is IMPOSSIBLE to scrape Amazon's pages and rightfully so. They've got a lot of valuable content on there that they want to protect. Why wont craigslist do the same?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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