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May 01, 2013

Craigslist Copyright Claims Dismissed, but Issues Remain

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Craigslist is one of those services that seems to generate as much controversy as it does value for its users, and recently, a little of the controversy roiled up when Craigslist went after a set of companies using its data to perform their own business operations. A new verdict handed down, meanwhile, leaves Craigslist in the cold on one point, but not on every point it tried to enforce.

Earlier this week, a verdict came in the case from California's Judge Charles Breyer, who ruled that while Craigslist posts were indeed sufficiently "original" to rate copyright protection, Craigslist's terms of use did not grant the company an exclusive license to those posts. That reportedly leaves Craigslist without legal standing to sue – at least, not for infringement – the three companies using Craigslist data to make their own business operations: PadMapper, 3taps and Lovely.

There's reportedly some positive news for Craigslist in this ruling, however. Breyer didn't dismiss claims that 3taps was violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by working around blocks that Craigslist had put up to protect its own data in the first place, like IP blocking. 3taps, meanwhile, is calling victory and saying that the Breyer ruling "put an end to further sham litigation" coming out of Craigslist.

The feud goes back as far as July, at last report, with Craigslist first targeting the PadMapper service, along with the company that provided PadMapper's data, 3taps, for copyright infringement. 3taps responded to this by filing its own counterclaims in September over Craigslist's copyrights, calling them anticompetitive. Craigslist then set up IP blocking to keep 3taps' systems away, but 3taps worked around those blocks, which brought up the specter of the CFAA. With the new ruling, Craigslist requested that 3taps' antitrust claims be stayed until the CFAA issue is resolved, and the request was reportedly granted. 3taps, in the meantime, is focusing on the fact that the data in question is already publicly available – apartment listings and the like – so it's suggesting that Craigslist's assertions of copyright aren't so much a community protection measure as they are a way to keep competitors out of the field.

Naturally, all of this is going to have to go before a judge before it can definitively be said, but there's a certain level of point on each side. Most of this seems to be about apartment listings, and those can be had from a variety of places. Craigslist trying to protect apartment listings does seem a bit on the excessive side, but then, it does look like under a strict interpretation, 3taps did wrong in trying to get that data back. Granted, that data probably shouldn't have been protected in the first place, but still. There’s a lot of ambiguity in here, the kind that only due process can fully settle.

One way or another, the whole thing should come to a head in rapid fashion, and we should be able to find out just who truly did wrong in all this once a court of law settles things.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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