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 First off, Craigslist's own site continues to be woefully out of date, and increasingly less useful in its current form.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.

Filed Under: copyright, legal bully
Companies: craigslist, padmapper


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  1. identicon
    Joe, 3 Aug 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.

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