Judge Throws Out Craigslist Copyright Claims Against Padmapper
May 1, 2013

Judge Throws Out Craigslist Copyright Claims Against Padmapper

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed Craigslist's copyright claims that three companies had violated its terms of service. In his findings, the judge made it clear that the company's terms of use didn't actually prohibit the three defendants from using the website's data.

Craigslist alleges in its lawsuit that PadMapper, 3Taps and Lovely abused terms of use violations, copyright violations, trespass, and civil violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

"Defendants' continued use of Craigslist after the clear statements regarding authorization in the cease and desist letters and the technological measures to block them constitutes unauthorized access under the statute," US District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco wrote in an opinion, referring to the CFAA.

The judge said Padmapper provides real estate listings consisting of real estate ads originally posted to Craigslist. Craigslist issued Padmapper a letter of cease and desist, but that did not stop them from jacking the world's most popular classified site's content. Padmapper did stop using Craigslist content for several weeks, but then announced it was "Bringing Craigslist Back."

Breyer did say he was not persuaded of Craigslist's allegations of civil conspiracy among the defendants, and that terms of use violation were not a CFAA violation. He also allowed the copyright claims to proceed only for user-created posts submitted between July 16, 2012 and August 8, 2012 because Craigslist required that users provide the site with "exclusive" rights to their submissions during those weeks. However, Craigslist dropped that language from its submission form after receiving plenty of criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The judge dismissing most of the copyright complaints is still a big win for the three companies. Breyer said that although Craigslist posts were "original" enough to warrant copyright protection, its terms of use didn't give it exclusive rights to the users' posts.

This isn't the first time Craigslist has faced legal battles. In 2009 a US District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to remove all classified ads for prostitution from Craigslist. Judge John Grady threw out the lawsuit, concluding that not every posting on Craigslist's "Adult Services" section was advertising prostitution. The online classifieds had to discontinue its adult services section after controversy kept stemming from the section.