Craigslist has made a dramatic alteration to its terms and conditions that establishes the company as "exclusive licensee" and copyright owner of all classified ads posted on its site. The alarming shift in policy was first spotted by Jon Berger, who noticed the new language at the bottom of Craigslist's post creation form. With the sweeping changes, Craigslist theoretically gains the ability to sue anyone (read: both individuals and businesses) it feels is "copying, republishing, distributing or preparing derivative works" without permission — clearly addressing the ongoing scuffle with Padmapper.
Clicking "Continue" confirms that craigslist is the exclusive licensee of this content
Essentially, the new terms allow Craigslist to pursue anyone caught posting (or hosting) an ad already displayed among its classifieds elsewhere on the web. Under copyright law, the company cannot claim ownership of core "facts" within each ad — things like an item's price, the location of an apartment, and other basic information can be freely duplicated. What Craigslist can say it holds copyright over is the posting as a whole including description, photos, and other information.
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.
Such invasive language is particularly troublesome since Craigslist likely could have altered these policies in a less encompassing way and still made its stance toward services like Padmapper clear. It remains to be seen how vigilant Craigslist will be when it comes to exercising its newfound power. We don't expect to see lawsuits against the public at large over identical ads, but Craigslist is clearly making a bid to strengthen its grip over post content. That the company would make such a drastic change without notifying users of the updated terms is certainly disappointing.