In an effort to hang onto its market share in the online classifieds game, Craigslist is now demanding to be the "exclusive licensee" of any content posted to its site. But some say Craigslist is on shaky legal ground.
Digital Trends says the agreement would mean that any ad you post on Craigslist, whether for an apartment, job or household item, can't be republished, copied or distributed without the explicit consent of Craigslist. Does that mean that you couldn't use the same ad on a site like Kijiji or your local newspaper's online ads? Digital Trends says it's not likely the company would go after everyone, that this new clause is directed at companies that are using Craigslist's data.
Mark Lyon, a New York lawyer tells Ars Technica, "An exclusive license is far different from what I, and many users, believe they are granting to Craigslist." "Craigslist fails to recognize that its users gain value by having their advertisements widely distributed and searchable. Instead of working to benefit its users by developing new, innovative features itself or encouraging third-party developers to do the same, Craigslist believes it can retain its strength in the market simply by clinging to its user's content in a Gollum-like fashion."
New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann tells Ars Technica that legally, Craigslist doesn't have much of a case against Padmapper. He says copyright law is very clear on the distinction between ideas and how they are expressed. In other words, details like the price of an apartment, the number of bedrooms and the address are facts and not covered by copyright, although how it is written in an ad would be protected. Padmapper, now facing a lawsuit, appears to know this. So while you can find the price and location of apartments on Padmapper, if you want more details you are redirected to a separate page that contains the original Craigslist ad, which is allowed. Lyon agrees saying, "PadMapper is simply providing a more efficient and usable interface to Craigslist itself." "Their indexing activities seem no different than any other search engine."