Disappointing: Craigslist Sues Padmapper For Making Craigslist More Useful & Valuable
from the call-off-the-dogs,-craig dept
The legal filing is below, and as with some of Craigslist's earlier lawsuits, this one raises a bunch of legal issues that are highly questionable. A lawsuit of this nature is much more suited to an old legacy gatekeeper, rather than a company that is supposedly of the internet generation. To say it's disappointing that Craigslist would engage in these kinds of tactics is an understatement.
The key arguments are that these services violate Craigslists' copyrights and trademarks. Neither claim seems particularly strong. In fact, both seem exceptionally weak. The internet would be a much worse place if either claim was found to be correct in court -- and it's surprising that Craig Newmark, who has fought the good fight for internet freedom, including being a major supporter of the Internet Defense League -- would move forward with such claims that could damage the basic workings of the internet.
You also expressly grant and assign to CL all rights and causes of action to prohibit and enforce against any unauthorized copying, performance, display, distribution, use or exploitation of, or creation of derivative works from, any content that you post (including but not limited to any unauthorized downloading, extraction, harvesting, collection or aggregation of content that you post).In light of the Righthaven debacle in which it was made clear that you cannot assign the bare right to sue, I'm curious if this particular clause is actually enforceable. Perhaps the assigning of "all rights" could be interpreted to mean the actual copyrights were assigned, but it's not that clear.
Either way, I'm still not convinced that the actions in question wouldn't then be covered by fair use. Sites like PadMapper are collecting mostly factual data. In looking around at Padmapper, including a number of Craigslist listings, all of the information provided appears to be factual. Here's an example:
In its complaint, Craigslist points to the actual listings pages, claiming that PadMapper violates its copyright because it displays "misappropriated craigslist content." As far as I can tell that's not true. What PadMapper appears to do is to display actual Craigslist pages, but do so with a frame, showing its own toolbar on the lefthand side. That is, it's not copying Craigslist content or republishing it, but sending users to Craigslist, and providing additional (and quite useful) tools. Example below:
The claim against 3taps might be a bit stronger, since it runs a site that appears to host content copied from Craigslist -- which 3taps then claims is public domain. That claim is questionable. 3taps CEO, Greg Kidd, told Jeff Roberts at GigaOm "that his company doesn’t “scrape” Craigslist but simply draws on data available on the public internet in the same way that other search engines do." That doesn't make much sense, because the way that other search engines work is to scrape content. Still, considering that search engines are considered legal, one could make an argument that 3taps is no different.
The second major claim in the lawsuit is even weaker. It's a trademark claim against both companies. Again, the argument against 3taps has slightly more credibility, since 3taps runs a (nicely designed) site called "craiggers." However, the site clearly has a tagline stating: "craigslist data, better than craigslist." I think most people would automatically assume, then, that the site has no relationship with Craigslist. When it comes to PadMapper, it's unclear how anyone could possibly be confused. The site is PadMapper and it sends people to Craigslist. There's simply no confusion there at all.
3taps' display of some of the data possibly represents a legal issue, but if any, it's a pretty minor one. It's difficult to see how making the data in Craigslist more useful creates any sort of "harm" for Craigslist at all. The arguments against PadMapper seem laughable to atrocious. Either way, for a company that often presents itself both as a strong defender of internet freedoms and as one that relies on safe harbor rules like the CDA 230, it's disappointing to see Craigslist become a legal bully over other sites who don't take away from Craigslist at all, but rather make the (increasingly out-of-date) site a lot more useful.