Craigslist Demands 'Exclusive License' On Your Posts

from the good-luck-with-that... dept

When Craigslist sued PadMapper and 3taps, we questioned the legal basis for much of the lawsuit, in particular the claim that Craigslist even could sue over copyright, when any copyrightable content is created by the end-users and not Craigslist itself. It appears that someone at Craigslist realized that it was somewhere very close to the Righthaven line in claiming a bare right to sue over someone else's work, and made a tweak, demanding "exclusive" rights.

I first saw this via Slashdot on the Baligu blog, and was trying to go through the legal implications, but thankfully, Tim Lee over at Ars Technica did all the heavy lifting for us in speaking to IP lawyers James Grimmelmann and Mark Lyon who are quite skeptical of this move.

What's odd is that this "change" isn't even to its terms of use, which don't actually claim an exclusive license. Instead, the company has just added text to the posting page saying that you are granting the company such a right:
Clicking "Continue" confirms that craigslist is the exclusive licensee of this content, with the exclusive right to enforce copyrights against anyone copying, republishing, distributing or preparing derivative works without its consent.
The theory, as Lee notes, is probably that by more forcefully claiming exclusive rights, perhaps it can get over the hump and have the right to actually enforce those copyrights -- but that legal theory is speculative at best.

It's kind of interesting, because someone could also potentially argue that this statement contradicts the company's own terms of use since they're different but perhaps more interesting are the wider legal questions raised by this -- including what happens if you, the user, post your classified ad to any other site. Craigslist seems to be claiming that it can go after those other sites (and, um, potentially you, I think...) for reposting "its" work. That's crazy and something that completely goes against Craigslist's standard "user-friendly" approach to everything.

Once again, this is showing how Craigslist's pursuit of these kinds of legal issues really seems to go against what made Craigslist so successful, turning the company into much more of a cranky legal bully. Lots of companies that start out innovative and open, do later change and flip sides on things like this, but Craigslist always seemed like the kind of company that would stay on the right side of the "evil line." It's too bad to see that it seems to be so aggressively diving over to the copyright bully side of the line.

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  1. icon
    ChrisB (profile), 2 Aug 2012 @ 6:27am

    Re:

    Um... Kijiji?

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