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Craigslist's terms of use ruled 'impermissible' as copyright complaints dismissed

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padmapper stock 1020
padmapper stock 1020

A California court has dismissed Craigslist’s copyright claims against 3taps, PadMapper, and Lovely, finding that the company's terms of use didn’t actually prohibit the defendants from using its data. The three sites all operate businesses based on Craigslist's postings, and the company's efforts to shut challengers out of its data have led to a protracted battle in court. This week, Judge Charles Breyer ruled that although Craigslist's posts were "original" enough to warrant copyright protection, its terms of use didn't give it an exclusive license on users' posts, meaning that it doesn't have the legal standing to sue for infringement.

The judge refused to dismiss Craigslist’s claims that 3taps violated the CFAA

It wasn’t a complete victory for the challengers, however — the judge refused to dismiss Craigslist’s claims that 3taps violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by circumventing technical barriers that Craigslist put in place to keep the competitor off its site, including IP blocking. Despite the mixed results, 3taps is declaring the ruling a victory, saying that Judge Breyer "put an end to further sham litigation" from Craigslist.

The original complaint dates back to July, when Craigslist first sued apartment finding service PadMapper and the company that provides its data, 3taps, for copyright infringement. In September, 3taps filed counterclaims denying that Craigslist owns exclusive copyright on its users’ posts and accusing the company of anticompetitive behavior. Craigslist reportedly asked Google to remove the cached versions of its ads that 3taps used as its data source, and consequently, the company began scraping Craigslist's site directly. When Craigslist tried to prevent 3taps's servers from accessing its site, setting up IP blocks, the company allegedly worked around the countermeasures, providing the fuel for the CFAA allegation.

3taps evokes Aaron Swartz and JSTOR

This isn’t the end of the road, however. Craigslist successfully moved to split the defendants’ antitrust counterclaims and stay discovery until Craigslist’s other (e.g., the alleged CFAA violation) are resolved. In the announcement mentioned above, 3taps evokes Aaron Swartz and JSTOR, arguing that "the difference here is that Craigslist has leveled these charges … for data that is already publicly available, not copyrighted by Craigslist, and already in the hands of third parties such as Google. At issue is whether Craigslist restraints exist to "protect" its community or are actually thinly disguised tactics to deter competition and innovation at the expense of, rather than defense of, users."