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Craigslist Suing Padmapper (gigaom.com)
317 points by staunch on July 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 449 comments

Craig Newmark said on Quora that the reason they didn't like people building stuff on top of Craigslist was simply the extra bandwidth they consumed:


But now that 3Taps has found an ingenious way to get at the data with zero extra bandwidth cost to Craigslist (by retrieving it from the Google cache rather than CL itself), it's clear that what Craigslist really dislikes is competition.

While Craigslist is probably within their legal rights here, this case shows that for all their talk about their benevolent aims, Craigslist is no different from other companies.

When I think of Padmapper, I think of the naughtiness:

"Though the most successful founders are usually good people, they tend to have a piratical gleam in their eye. They're not Goody Two-Shoes type good. Morally, they care about getting the big questions right, but not about observing proprieties. That's why I'd use the word naughty rather than evil. They delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter. This quality may be redundant though; it may be implied by imagination.

Sam Altman of Loopt is one of the most successful alumni, so we asked him what question we could put on the Y Combinator application that would help us discover more people like him. He said to ask about a time when they'd hacked something to their advantage—hacked in the sense of beating the system, not breaking into computers. It has become one of the questions we pay most attention to when judging applications."

Naughtiness was using CL to seed their site in the first place. After the Cease and Desist, using 3Taps as a source CL data was simply walking into a lawsuit.

Generally, I don't think you want your naughtiness to tie you up in a legal battle.

Case will never go to trial. Maybe a "legal battle" was the only option.

Can CL "win"? Can they stop everyone else, PadMapper is but the first of many, no doubt, from re-displaying facts (classified ads) in different formats?

If CL doesn't want this to happen, all they need to do is add <meta name="robots" content="noindex"> and we're done.

Craigslist is probably within their legal rights here

I would really call this into question for the copyright claims. The key claim is copyright infringement, and the listings on Craigslist are almost certainly unprotected, much like telephone directory listings. They are statements of fact rather than creative works.

Craigslist may attempt to claim copyright over reproduction of their database as a whole (compilation), but the Supreme Court has ruled that in order to be eligible the compilation must be "original in its selection, coordination, and arrangement", and Craigslist can hardly claim that.

The breach of contract claims may be stronger though. The pages on the Google cache presumably still contain the ToS, and if they apply (who knows?) then PadMapper's use of Craigslist would likely constitute a breach. A ruling on this would be very interesting.

Another thought is that padmapper is not /copying/ the data - They are summarizing it.

So there could be a entire listing for a SF apartment with lots of details and padmapper would not copy any of it- instead they would just make notes - 3 bedroom, location, price, pictures and then link back to CL if someone clicks the listing on PM

>The breach of contract claims may be stronger though. The pages on the Google cache presumably still contain the ToS

Would this work? Can a phonebook just put a section at the beginning of this page that by reading this book you are agreeing to the ToS which state you can't copy it?

I know most ToS contain a section about by using this service you are agreeing to the ToS.

But I think there is a good argument that Padmapper isn't actual using the service since they aren't getting the information from Craigslist's servers.

Am I using a service, and thus bound by contract if I look at a screengrab of a website on a third party website (that contains a ToS).

I've said before though that Craigslist could invent fictitious entries, and sue Padmapper for copying those creative works, just like mapmakers do with fake towns.

Would it work? Well, web pages are cached by ISPs all the time. The nature of the internet is that data is buffered all over the place. The argument seems to be that because the data has been at rest for a few days, the ToS no longer applies - this seems like a fairly weak argument, but who knows.

As for phone books, a shrink-wrap license on a CD-ROM phone book which prohibited copying was upheld by the US courts (ProCD), so that copying was a breach of contract even though the underlying data was unprotected.

> PadMapper isn't actually 'using' the service.

Using is a wonderfully subjective word, and I'd expect accesing, and making use of to be acceptable synonyms.

> I've said before though that Craigslist could invent fictitious entries, and sue Padmapper for copying those creative works, just like mapmakers do with fake towns.

These are known as "trap streets" and US federal court has ruled that they are not protectable. Map makers are able to sue because the rest of their map is protectable; the trap streets simply catch the infringer red-handed.

what Craigslist really dislikes is competition

Hm, would you not say that what Craigslist really dislikes is their competition piggy-backing off their data? Craigslist seemed quite happy with the existing situation until Padmapper launched their own listing service.

Though I agree that it's not in the spirit of a .org, if such concept exists.


It's not their data. It's ours, as the users. Craigslist doesn't own anything I upload to them.

The reason PadMapper exists is because Craigslist refuses to not suck.

"You automatically grant and assign to CL, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant and assign to CL, a perpetual, irrevocable, unlimited, fully paid, fully sub-licensable (through multiple tiers), worldwide license to copy, perform, display, distribute, prepare derivative works from (including, without limitation, incorporating into other works) and otherwise use any content that you post. You also expressly grant and assign to CL all rights and causes of action to prohibit and enforce against any unauthorized copying, performance, display, distribution, use or exploitation of, or creation of derivative works from, any content that you post (including but not limited to any unauthorized downloading, extraction, harvesting, collection or aggregation of content that you post)."


Hadn't actually dug into the ToS, but the bit:

> You also expressly grant and assign to CL all rights and causes of action to prohibit and enforce against any unauthorized copying, performance, display, distribution...

Seems to be vital to this case.

Rightshaven (copyright troll) was granted the same right by the copyright holders they represent, yet the judge ruled they didn't have standing to sue on the copyright holder's behalf.

The Righthaven case is slightly different, though I hope the logic still applies. (I'm not a lawyer, but I read the Righthaven opinion[1] when the Padmapper/3Taps workaround was originally discussed.) The difference is that Righthaven was granted merely the right to sue on behalf of the original copyright holder, but none of the exclusive rights that copyrights actually bestow upon their owners. It could be interpreted that posters grant Craigslist some of their exclusive rights ("copy, perform, display," etc.), and suing to protect those rights may be legally kosher. I know of no such precedent.

My personal interpretation/hope is that the right to sue for copyright infringement is nontransferable, which would give Craigslist no standing to sue. Individual posters could sue, however.

[1] https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/righthaven_v_dem/order6-1... (See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righthaven_LLC_v._Democratic_Un...)

CL revised their TOU recently (within the past year, possibly more recently than that). It wasn't a minor edit, it was a complete rewrite.

I suspect this may have been one of the introduced terms.

Yes, the key point would be unauthorized, CL is going to have to prove that the PadMapper's usage was unauthorized (by the owner of the data)

That's a given. The only way they'd have authorization by the owners of the data would be to e-mail the poster of every CL listing and ask for it. We know they don't do that. The key point is whether there's copyright infringement at all, not whether it was authorized.

Then Craigslist should ban Google from indexing their pages

And you automatically grant Craigslist your first born child and all future earnings and your left index finger. Laywers love to fill these things with unenforceable outlandish crap. The courts are more discerning.

Err, that's actually a very reasonable Terms of Service.

It says that you own everything you post, but you are granting them the rights to use it. The only unusual bit is that you are additionally granting them the right to go after people who scrape your content on your behalf.

That's not that unusual for sites that contain user-generated content. If someone's hosting a blog full of scraped YouTube videos, YouTube can go after them without contacting the owner of each individual video.

The grant is not exclusive and the authority to decide what is an is not authorized is not claimed by CL. If it is unauthorized they claim rights and causes. You can't have a non-exclusive grant without this distinction.

The ToS may not mention exclusivity, but the source of data (for Padmapper) is Craigslist. Thus, the clause of "unauthorized copying" applies.

Exactly right. And if you want your data to be reposted on another site, then you should repost it.

Craigslist is delivering exactly what it its users signed up for (no more no less). People posting ads on Craigslist do not necessarily want or intend for it to be reposted on other sites.

"People posting ads on Craigslist do not necessarily want or intend for it to be reposted on other sites."

That argument appears to be invalidated by Craiglist's own terms of use, which say that when you upload a listing to Craigslist they can syndicate it wherever they want (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4287519).

Well, that's a fair point, but I don't think that right matters much unless and until they exercise it. A better argument (against myself) is that they're apparently willing to sell some type of access to your posts for use on mobile apps.

Still, I think there's something admirable in the simplicity and transparency of interacting with Craigslist. What you see is pretty much exactly what you get.

The key point is that the TOS says that you grant Craigslist the right to redistribute your listing where ever they see fit, it doesn't say some third party entity has the right to do that.

As far as I'm aware, if you post information in a place where it will be publicly accessible, then you are tacitly agreeing that third parties will be able to access it and use it as they please. That's not a right that needs to be given to these third parties. It exists from the get-go, and must be explicitly taken away by something like copyright.

So I can legally start amazon-copied-reviews.com and scrape every product review from amazon.com with my own referrer links to Walmart without fear of repercussion? Sweet.

Yes it does: "fully sub-licensable (through multiple tiers)"

Licensing implies getting CL's authorisation

And CL refusing in this case is in the user's benefit, how?

> And if you want your data to be reposted on another site, then you should repost it.

I had to giggle a little bit at this in the grand scheme of the internet, sorry.

When I posted something on Facebook Marketplace, I started getting emails and comments from other "market" sites that Facebook had cross-posted my listing to.

While it was annoying to not know this up front, the fact that it was more visible and getting more bites because of it only helped me make the sale quicker. If a service wants to piggyback off of another to make my postings more buoyant, as a user and seller, I don't have a problem with it.

Personally, I'd prefer if Facebook acted a little more like Craigslist with my data, not the other way around.

Interestingly, in both cases, the economic incentives for operators seem to be basically counter to likely user intent and expectations.

In response to your "only helped": on one of the other Padmapper stories here on HN, someone wrote that after their item sold and they cancelled the Craigslist ad, they continued to get contacted about the item because third parties had scraped the ad and did not stop displaying their copy when the ad disappeared from Craigslist.

This happened to me on the Facebook ad too, but I preferred it it over the lack of any response at all - it proved the services were used. Easy to ignore them or send a generic reply.

Padmapper's isn't "reposting" any given listing -- it displays an abbreviated digest of the listing in its search results, and then if the user clicks, it takes them to the original listing.

If this is illegal or otherwise objectionable without an explicit agreement from each Craigslist poster, I'm not really sure how a search engine or even descriptive hyperlinking is kosher without explicit agreement from each website indexed or referred to.

Uh oh... Bye bye Google and all search engines.

Google obeys robots.txt file. Padmapper does not. That's a critical difference.

CL's robot.txt file does not 'disallow' crawling the real estate section. So Padmapper was likely as compliant as Google.


No, this is just semantics.

The point is Google respects publishers' desire not to be indexed. Padmapper does not. Robots.txt is simply a common method for conveying that message. It's not like Padmapper could argue they didn't know CL was unhappy; they got a certified letter!

This is just semantics. Google respects publishers who do not want their sites listed.

Good luck explaining that to a judge. Would you gamble a company based on that distinction?

True, but that's irrelevant to the comment I was replying to. We are talking about user expectations with regard to content they posted being made available on other sites.

And as a user you can put your information up on PadMapper if you like. If you don't, then it isn't up to PadMapper to get it for you.

Craig Newmark now says (6/25/12):

"folks, please remember, #craigslist community feedback massively against the use of their stuff for the profit of others."


Why would apt owners NOT want their listings cross posted and distributed to the largest possible audience? I call BS.

Craig is doing things right: he is not greedy and he doing it with vision of general purpose. If craiglist is run by a person who investors like to choose as a founder they will be sold for 10M a long time ago.

The problem with a lot of startups in SV is that their only objective is to make money. Nothing else. Craigslist is very very rare exception.

Now lets downvoting starts...

Flogging yourself doesn't make you righteous. Doing good for the world does.

Craigslist wastes several human lifetimes worth of time every month through maintaining a monopoly product with a shitty UI and refusing to let anyone innovate on top of it. They hold back progress and they are evil. They are the IE6 of classified ads.

> They hold back progress and they are evil. They are the IE6 of classified ads.

That's a good one. I'm going to start using it. (Unless you make copyright objections.)

Not sure I would call that ingenious. But your point is sorely need of being made more often.

How many other websites use arguments like "bandwidth" to falsely portray competitors who access their publicly shared data as somehow in the wrong?

Many. Some here on HN. No need to name names.

No doubt even Google would complain about people "scraping" search results.

To me, it is a joke. Because the people who complain use automation to access, retrieve, organise and serve information and thereby establish their business. Only then to try to forbid others from using automation to do the same.

And all the while, it's NOT THEIR INFORMATION. This is not Craigslist's data. It's users' data.

It belongs to users, who are today's "publishers" and possess all those good ole publisher's rights. (Though they may naively license them out.)

The users chose to give Craiglist permission to use their data. They did not choose to give PadMapper their data, or else they would have posted their listing to PadMapper.

They did give Craiglist permission to prevent others from using their data without permission. In this context, scraping any version of Craiglist's site (whether CL itself or a third party cache) falls within Craiglist's rights under the license they were given, and within the user's expectations of what Craiglist will do with their data.

Weak argument. Did they give Google "permission" to access the data (and store and republish it)?

Google is allowed in robots.txt. But that is not exactly what I would call an agreement.

The simple fact is this info is on the public web which, by its nature, copies and transfers data. That's what the web does. You upload something and it goes "viral". You have principles like the "Streisand effect" to contend with.

This goes back a long way. No doubt judges remember. The Ken Starr report on Ms. Lewinsky. Some random classified ad. Like it or not, information gets desseminated.

If you want to protect and restrict access to data, then you do not upload it to the public web. You put it behind access controls, e.g., a password. This is common sense.

If anyone has a claim here, it's users who do not want their ads on PadMapper (if there are any). CL has no standing and their motives are both pathetic and transparent.

Craigslist is a business. What makes it right for another company to profit from the contents they generated through the platform that they build?

Yes, they got an early advantage into the market and has the critical mass that many company can seem to compete with but why take that away from them because they refuse to update/add new features.

Instead of piggybacking on them and relying on their data to earn money, shouldn't Padmapper focus on building their own content. Isn't that where innovation comes from? Beating an existing company by creating a better platform?

Craigslist is a business. And a monopoly, like Microsoft in the 90s. Didn't they have the right to decide which browsers are packaged with their OS? Don't they even have the right to decide which browsers run on their OS?

Exactly, they've pretty much run every newspaper classified out of business. Consumers have no choice but to do business with craigslist if they want to list something in a classified.

That's why website owners should focus on creating another classified website that can compete with Craigslist instead of relying on their contents. That's where innovation starts.

And its not about a matter of choice the users have. There are many competitors in this market, and yes Craigslist dominates every one of them because they had an early advantage on the internet. Small sites can't just leech off the contents on their website and slap ads on it to make money.

Lets say Craigslist was a print company that produce and distribute classified as. Will it be right for a small company to steal their content and slap their ads on it and distribute it themselves?

Your argument won't work here, because there are many major newspaper that do 1000x in revenue and distribution than independent newspapers.

People could always post to padmapper...directly. Or sell on Ebay...Or post it to the various subreddits...Or to local newspaper's community boards...

There is nothing forcing people to use Craiglist. They are not a monopoly, nor do they act like one.

Just because they have competitors doesn't make those competitors viable. Apple and Linux still existed when Microsoft was prosecuted by the DOJ.

The vast majority of people searching classified ads are searching craigslist, therefore if you're trying to list something in a classified ad, you're forced to use craigslist.

Sure you could use another service, but Netscape could have also just sold browsers only to Linux customers. It's all about the numbers.

But Microsoft largely escaped the DOJ antitrust case because of competition with Apple. (MS invested in Apple to retain a competitor.)

People aren't really forced to use craigslist. That the vast majority of people choose to search CL isn't good enough. Another company could spend whatever it takes to get people to search their classifieds instead. As long as CL can't or doesn't block that (in contrast to stuff MS was doing that started the DOJ case against them), the competition is viable.

I'm sure Craig was speaking truthfully when he made his comment. But he is but one piece of a whole, and that whole includes folks who count the pennies. And business person associated with Craigslist would know that the only value Craigslist has is its listings. Giving those away to be re-used by another web site would never fly with such a person. I don't doubt for a minute when you tell someone is taking money out of your pocket that you need to fund your operations (I know, I know its more nuanced than that but its the gist of the argument) well you an roll over or you can fight.

If they go to court and get an opinion it should be really helpful as a guide for other entrepreneurs who see re-processing the information on the web in new ways as the foundation for their business.

If they go to court and get an opinion it should be really helpful as a guide for other entrepreneurs who see re-processing the information on the web in new ways as the foundation for their business.

You mean, like Blekko?

The simple, inconvenient truth is most folks who are making money from the web, like search engines, are not content creators (nor content owners), they are content publishers... who publish for free. "Are you a non-technical person who wants to get something onto the web? No problem. We'll help you with that, for free. Just give us some personal info about you so we can solicit money from advertisers."

(Placement, e.g., paid placement, where the eyeballs are more likely to see something, for a fee, is another matter.)

In the case of search engines there is already a lot of case law from people suing Google of course. As with most things its a spectrum. Using a search engine as an example (and disclaimer I work for Blekko, a search engine) a search engine crawls the web, then it computes a number of parameters about the page its crawled (what its about, how many people link to it, who does it link to, Etc.) and creates a new piece of information called a 'rank'. Then when a search query comes in the query is used to create a way of recognizing a 'target' page and then the rank is used (and in our case slashtags too) to decide what pages you might be looking for. The results, also include snippets from the page to help the user evaluate whether or not the page is the one they want.

Now that use has generally not been highly contested, people want their pages to be found and so they tolerate search engines searching them. They can be explicit in what pages they want searched and which they don't using robots.txt. So that relationship is pretty well understood. People who ban Blekko (and presumably anyone else) from their robots.txt file are not crawled by us, we recognize and honor that it is there choice if they want to be in our index or not. On the copyright issue however it has been pretty clearly established that 'page rank', like someone's review rating on a movie or an application, constitutes an original work of the creator. There is a lot of experience with things like book reviews where the review, using snippets to illustrate the review, and a rating, are both fair use and the original work of the reviewer.

Google however got in trouble with their news aggregation service. And the bulk of much of the arguments there, were that the snippets were so complete on the news page as to exceed 'fair use' exemptions, and that by aggregating these pages they were 'stealing' traffic that might otherwise go to the news site. The results on those cases were mixed, with some newspapers being removed from Google's index, and others not. Generally everyone that was removed has since been replaced (at the request of the news source) because Google does drive more traffic to a web site than any other web service. So in this case while Google was found to violate the copyright of these news organizations by indexing their newspapers without their consent, the papers later found it in their best interest to give their consent.

Craigslist and Amazon and Ebay are a third kind of question. They are a collection of 'facts' (as many have pointed out) which are derived by a process (placing ads). And in the 'old' world the courts have generally sided with the person who had paid the economic cost for creating those collections. And as PadMapper and others before them have shown, is that there is a great temptation to use those same facts and re-package them into a new collection. This pretty naturally sets up a commercial tension between the original collector and the new user of those same facts. That seems to open another front in copyright litigation and policy. So if this court gets an opinion published it cannot help but be influential as there don't seem to be very many in this space. That could be because judges think the right answer is 'obvious' but I seriously doubt that to be the case.

I have heard people saying "we love competition". I wonder if they really mean it. Not saying one cant't love competition, just that the phrase is used so commonly that it's hard to digest.

I, for one, hate my competitors. Basic insticts perhaps?

Is not disliking your competitors something that is practiced by majority? OR is it at least very common? Common enough to point at a company that doesn't follow it?

It depends; If you are trying to start a new industry, you'd like your competitors more, because they validate the market. My university lecturer told me in the 90's (or 80's) he was starting a bottled water company; Back then no one drinks bottled water. Every month or so the half dozen bottle water company startups in Australia have a meet up; and they were all friends.

Hmm, sounds familiar...

Paul -

It's easy to interpret your post to mean that stealing/reusing data just because you can is fair competitive practice. Please do clarify because your words mean a lot to people and your post might be interpreted that way.

Hilarious to expose their sanctimonious nonsense though.

FWIW, the legal basis of suing because of bandwidth and server load is called a trespass to chattels


Can you comment on the status of Priceonomics (YC) in this context? They're building a rich interface on top of CL listings data, presumably using 3Taps to get the volume of data without drawing attention.

Is the endgame for these companies to replace the content source, or to hope (or fight for) a legal precedent to 'open' CL data for third party usage?

Just like they try to keep the facade up that CL barely makes money. They are swimming in so much $ it's insane.

For the immense value they provide to the hundreds of millions of users, having a 100-200M revenue is not "swimming in [insane] $".

They're profitable alright, but let's not kid ourselves that they have by choice left a LOT of money on the table, which is why all these value-added services are trying to take a share of the CL-pie.

They have an estimated 70-80% margins... maybe I should have said drowning in money!


It's hard to say from an outsider's perspective whether or not they are 'swimming in cash.'

I suppose we do have some estimates for their revenue, but not how much profit they actually make.




The AIM Group estimated $115M revenue for craigslist in 2011, after $141M in 2010. I don't know anything about the AIM group, but the report is referenced in the NYT (presumably they vetted the source, but...). http://aimgroup.com/2011/10/06/craigslist-revenue-falls-off-...

The tone in this article is unbelievable.

>The case raises questions over whether Craigslist is stifling innovation or simply protecting its data

There is no question. Craigslist isn't stopping Padmapper from being built, its stopping Padmapper from using Craigslist data. The continuous attempts to reframe Craigslist's actions as an attempt to stifle innovation seem almost surreal. I just can't understand how a community of professionals could support Padmapper in this.

The posts on CL are no more "Craigslist data" than videos on YouTube are "Google data". The data is submitted by the users for the express purpose of being seen by other people. Does anyone seriously argue that users listing flats on CL do not want their listing found by other avenues? It is clear that Padmapper is providing a service beneficial to both suppliers and consumers of rental properties, and CL is using the police power of the state to prevent that benefit. Why they're doing this is still a mystery to me.

The users of CL never agreed to let you copy their postings to whatever website you feel like, also it is against their TOS to do so:

Any copying, aggregation, display, distribution, performance or derivative use of craigslist or any content posted on craigslist whether done directly or through intermediaries (including but not limited to by means of spiders, robots, crawlers, scrapers, framing, iframes or RSS feeds) is prohibited. As a limited exception, general purpose Internet search engines and noncommercial public archives will be entitled to access craigslist without individual written agreements executed with CL that specifically authorize an exception to this prohibition if, in all cases and individual instances: (a) they provide a direct hyperlink to the relevant craigslist website, service, forum or content; (b) they access craigslist from a stable IP address using an easily identifiable agent; and (c) they comply with CL's robots.txt file; provided however, that CL may terminate this limited exception as to any search engine or public archive (or any person or entity relying on this provision to access craigslist without their own written agreement executed with CL), at any time and in its sole discretion, upon written notice, including, without limitation, by email notice.

The notion that I am bound by whatever legalese someone happens to put on their publicly accessible website is absurd in the extreme; I am not the one checking the box to submit a post. CL is perfectly able to restrict read-access to those who agree to the terms, e.g., by requiring registration. That they choose not to is their choice, and the state should not be used as a substitute bludgeon whenever they dislike the unintended consequences.

Furthermore, the publicly-accessible data isn't being copied, it's being consumed. I may consume the data to find an apartment. Someone might consume the data to calculate the average market prices in a city. Padmapper consumes the data to generate locations on a map.

This makes no sense. You agree to the TOS when you post information to CL, not when you are just browsing for listings; that submitted information is what is bound by the TOS above. Also if you aren't the one checking the agree box, who is?

From what you've written above it sounds like you believe any contract between two parties is absurd in the extreme.

> The notion that I am bound by whatever legalese someone happens to put on their publicly accessible website is absurd in the extreme.

Well, if nothing else, the submitting users' copyright applies. CL has a license to use it however they like, you don't.

I would bet that 99% of CL users not only never read this TOS, but they also do not care if padmapper copies their listings.

I've never read my credit card TOS, so I don't have to pay my bills right?

What does that have to do anything? The point is that users do not care if other companies copy their listing data (and aren't even aware of such a restriction).

How have you determined that every users listing on Padmapper doesn't care it has been scraped from CL and relisted? Did they contact every user and get their permission first?

It's not necessary for them to do so. It's incumbent upon CL to prove the infringement, not the other way around.

Under the HN logic prevailing in this discussion, that would appear to be correct...

But like padmapper, you would be completely screwed if it turned into a lawsuit.

Exactly, ignorance of the law is never an excuse! THen they make more laws

Imagine that Padmapper were released as an alternative web browser. As an end user, I have the right to consume CL's content. Do they have a right to tell me which web browser I can and cannot use?

Since CL offers their data freely to "the public", by what theory can they prevent the public from using their own chosen client browser to view it? Why should there be a distinction between software installed in my computer and a cloud-hosted application like Padmapper?

I believe that Padmapper, as an agent acting on behalf of its users, has every right to reformat the information originating on CL as long as it does not purposefully seek to cause confusion about the origin of the data (which they do not as they link to the source).

No they don't. They just have to check the stupid checbox that doesn't do anything because otherwise they can't post advertisment they wrote. I'd say cheking this checkbox is coerced. Also you may check it witout reading what's written next to it.

Posting to Craigslist isn't a Constitutional right. Don't agree with the terms? Don't post there. No one's coercing.

They have a public interface. I'm using it without agreeing to anything. They can't make me agree by presenting me with checkbox. They can't prevent me from using their interface if I don't agree. On the other hand I can't make them actually publish the information I entered or keep them to their word on anything they declare. It's not what lawers like but that's how internet works.

> They can't make me agree by presenting me with checkbox. They can't prevent me from using their interface if I don't agree.

False. From the EFF: https://www.eff.org/wp/clicks-bind-ways-users-agree-online-t...

> Given the emphasis placed on a user’s assent, courts favor finding a binding agreement where the user engages in affirmative conduct acknowledging the terms of a TOS. For instance, a genuine clickwrap agreement, in which a service provider places a TOS just adjacent to or below a click-button (or check-box), has been held to be sufficient to indicate the user agreed to the listed terms. In these cases, requiring the user to click “I Agree,” after calling attention to the terms and affording the user an opportunity to review them, demonstrates the user agreed to the terms. However, courts generally do not require that you actually have read the terms, but just that you had reasonable notice and an opportunity to read them.

You talk about law. American law to be precise. I talk about physics. They can't even prove it was I that checked the checkbox.

Try using that argument in a court and they'll laugh.

Finding myself in american court in the second scenario in the list of preferable scenarios right after finding myself in third world country prison. So if I'm there I consider myself already gone regardless of any argumentation.

In other courts on the other hand in cases about copyright violations even if accuser provided IP address, logs clearly indicating defendants computer the case was dismissed because he still failed to indicate that it was in fact the defendant that downloaded and/or served the copyrighted file in question.

I'd say same way there's no possibility anyone could prove that it was I who checked the checkbox.

But please ignore me. I'm just venting.

Let me know if you rent your next place without it.

I currently own, but my last place was rented in 2010 without Craigslist. It's entirely possible.

Possible != practical in all cases.

There's no Constitutional right to a practical apartment hunt, either.

There's also no constitutional right to uninstalling a browser and installing your own browser. That doesn't mean something isn't going wrong with the public's interests.

When a group can interfere with how you hunt for a place to live something is up. Where you live is pretty fundamental.

> When a group can interfere with how you hunt for a place to live something is up.

What entitled bullshit. People/companies do that all the time. Padmapper could've run out of money and shut themselves down - would you pursue a court injunction on the basis that they shouldn't be able to interfere with how you hunt for an apartment? How about if they changed the UI in a way you didn't like?

> What entitled bullshit.

Wanting the market to work isn't entitled BS. It's good civic thinking. Craigslist holding onto its incumbency, counter to the interests of the public is entitled BS.

> Padmapper could've run out of money and shut themselves down - would you pursue a court injunction on the basis that they shouldn't be able to interfere with how you hunt for an apartment? How about if they changed the UI in a way you didn't like?

The first would've been the market working as it should. Also, if Padmapper messes up its UI and goes out of business, then the market works as it should.

Craigslist holding onto its monopoly position is a broken market.

> Craigslist holding onto its monopoly position is a broken market.

This sounds more like whining than anything based in reality. Craigslist has a monopoly on apartment rent listings?










Yes. In as much as Microsoft had "competitors" but had as close to a monopoly position in its market to warrant action.

Pedant posturing aside, to those who have "skin in the game," namely those renting and renting-out property and paying real money for leases, Craigslist is the 800 lb gorilla in most markets.

Even if you go with the "it's not their data" argument Craigslist would seem to own the specific compilation of the data. I'd apply the same copyright principle as phone books or encyclopedias.


Craigslist invested in the infrastructure to enter, store, and display this information. They should be able to set their terms as to how it is used in aggregate.

You should read that link:

the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a compilation work such as a database must contain a minimum level of creativity in order to be protectable under the Copyright Act.

The Supreme Court (...) held that Rural's white pages are not entitled to copyright protection, since the white pages did not meet the statutory requirement for originality under 17 U.S.C. §102(a).

Cragslist is completely automated. There's absolutely no creativity involved.

Craigslist invested in the infrastructure to enter, store, and display this information. They should be able to set their terms as to how it is used in aggregate.

Unfortunately for them, "sweat of the brow" doesn't afford copyright protection in the US.

>Cragslist is completely automated. There's absolutely no creativity involved.

Whoa whoa whoa, the coding of the site didn't involve a species of creativity?

If you mean that the content of a posting didn't involve creativity on Craigslist's part, you'd be on firmer ground, but even there they made design decisions (however questionable...) about how to present it.

I said that in the context of the previous post, you can't read it in isolation.

The design decision are irrelevant, since Padmapper isn't copying those.

You're right, sweat of the brow is irrelevant, which is why it is irrelevant that their process is now automated. The copyrightable aspects are in the collection, selection, and presentation of data, which is not required by law to be performed manually.

It's relevant because it requires creativity; it's not automatically ruled out, but it makes it harder to claim.

In any case, Craigslist is completely unoriginal in its selection and arrangement of the data; the selection is "whatever people submit" and the arrangement is LIFO. I find it very hard to believe they'll be awarded copyright over it.

>I'd apply the same copyright principle as phone books

So would I—phone books are not subject to compilation copyright, because there's no editorial choice going on. That was settled in the _Feist_ case.

I don't really have a horse in the PadMapper/Craigslist debate but your analogy to YouTube is apt. I have a bunch of videos uploaded to YouTube, and I've permitted embedding because I know that even if a video is embedded somewhere I can still remove the video from my YouTube Channel Manager.

When I upload a video to YouTube, I do expect to retain control of it solely through my interactions with YouTube, and expect that when I take it down it gets taken down across all Google properties. I would be pretty angry if I found that my videos were on another site which had scraped YouTube's data and now was hosting my video without any ability for me to remove it.

I agree! On top of that, the ability to free-ride off of other's data without permission could be seen as an attempt to stiffle innovation as well. Why should I take the time to build something when (a) others can come along and use my data for free and take away my market share or (b) I can just wait a year and scrape the data off of somebody else and not do as much work.

It seems about time Craigslist re-evaluates creating an API. They have such vast amount of local data that others could use that they could easily charge for use and make some money there.

why isn't craigslist doing that then instead of suing someone who found a way to attract users and media attention?

They attracted media attention? Well, why didn't you say so in the first place?

Because we're also a community of apartment seekers, and Padmapper makes Craigslist's data many times more useful. It's fine if Craigslist wants us to use their mapping service, but it doesn't exist yet. It's a purely selfish argument, but shutting down Padmapper does nothing but make our lives more difficult.

That is hardly shutting down Padmapper. It is just a roadblock and they would have to find another source of data. It has been clear for many years that Craigslist doesn't want their site scraped, so building a business that is so dependent that it would close if they lost that source the business would be ruined is extremely short sighted.

Edit: finished my thought that I left out mid-sentence.

The vast majority of useful data (for the areas that I have looked for apartments, at least) comes from Craigslist. When Padmapper can't use that data, I can't use Padmapper. I'm not talking about the legal, or even ethical aspects of the situation, just the practical ones.

No, it is effectively shutting down Padmapper. Apartment listings are on Craigslist.

As I have said elsewhere, I think Craigslist are within their rights here, but the situation still sucks. People want to browse apartment listings on a map, and Craigslist won't let us.

It seems that Craigslist sucks for people trying to find a property.

Does it suck for people on the other end - people with a property that they'd like to rent to others?

Why hasn't some other solution come onto the market to fix the problems of craigslist?

Padmapper was that solution.

Are you asking why nobody has made a website that competes directly with Craiglist, but with a better interface? Padmapper allows you to post listing directly, but it's very difficult to get buyers or sellers to bother with a different marketplace when all the other buyers and sellers are already using Craigslist. You can't beat Craigslist on price, and many non-technical people are already comfortable with the existing system. Convincing them to switch to a different marketplace with fewer potential customers and a new interface is very difficult, no matter how great your features are.

Nope, doesn't suck for sellers, at least in seller's markets (SF), they don't have to do anything other than list, and renters will flood in.

Due to various factors (demographics, etc.), sellers also tend to be not the most tech savvy people. I can't believe that it is not standard procedure to post a video walk-through these days. A lot of listings lack even a photo.

>"Why hasn't some other solution come onto the market to fix the problems of craigslist?"

Monopoly power.

> its stopping Padmapper from using Craigslist data

Is it Craigslist's data? Does Craigslist own the posts that caused women to be murdered and stolen property to be sold? If they own that data, then they must be culpable (to some degree) for these bad acts.

If they own it, they are now more than just a service provider (IMO) and can no longer be protected by the DCA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act

As I see it, they don't own the information, they own the database.

For example, they do not own the fact that you are selling a toothbrush. The do own the records on their servers which catalog the fact that you are selling a toothbrush.

Why? Because they are the ones who went to the trouble of gathering and storing those records.

This is somewhat akin to recording a verbal note from a customer in a book, and storing that book in a giant library. Sure, the user owns the information, but that doesn't mean you are obligated to let every Tom, Dick, and Harry come in and use your library how they see fit- it's your library, even though you do not hold the copyright to all the information stored there.

But if you let anybody use your library, and you don't own the copyright to the content, why are you allowed to stop people from snapping photos of the books and posting them on the web? It's one thing if the copyright holders asked you to, but in this case they want as much distribution as they can get.

Craigslist clearly states that they don't own the data. But just because they don't own it doesn't make it public domain - the ownership belongs to the person who created the listing. To be totally free to repost the data you would need to get explicit permission from each owner.

No. I could write something illegal (libelous, inciting a crime, etc) and assign copyright to you without your consent.

Ok, but then I wouldn't later claim ownership of it as Craigslist has (implying they have consented).

Craigslit does not claim ownership. Craiglist claims it has a license. They are completely different things. Craiglist is enforcing its license to the post. Ownership of the post itself is, and always has been, with the original poster.

It's not Craigslist data, it's the users'. They just have a license.


Users are free to post their listings to both Padmapper and Craigslist. Padmapper is not therefore automatically entitled to repurpose Craigslist as a kind of ad-hoc aggregator API for user listings.

I know, I wasn't claiming otherwise, I just meant what I wrote.

Great. Have the users provided a license to PadMapper? Where is this license agreement? How is it made?

They provide the license to everyone to spread the word that they have apartment for sale by default. It's more resonable to assume that than anything else.

Google also indexes this data. Craigslist obviously doesn't own this data as they have DMCA practices in place. They can't claim DMCA and also say that the data is their data.

Read Craigslist's TOS. The copyright remains with the listing author, but they sign over rights to enforce that copyright to Craigslist.

That is a power that, in the past, Craigslist has used for good. In this case, it's a power being used just for the benefit of Craigslist to protect its network effect incumbency, to the detriment of users.

Doesn't that run afoul of the same problem as Righthaven? There is no bare "right to sue" that can be transferred without transferring the copyright.

Of course you're correct, but surely (under the active hypothetical of CL having a license to the users' data) it would fall to the users to sue PadMapper (which they almost surely won't, because they're happy having more interest in their rental).

Stop assuming things that I didn't claim. I meant what I wrote, nothing else.

I interpret this different. I certainly think that Craigslist is stifling innovation (perhaps purposefully, perhaps not), but simply stifling innovation is not illegal.

Craiglist is being known for not "innovating", at least when it comes to their platform, design etc. Heck, Craig himself said he tries to implement changes as little and as rarely as possible, because he himself does not truly know what makes Craiglist to constantly "tick" year after year.

Im sure that's why their try this lowball trick to defend themselves and show it to judge "hey we want to innovate, and Craiglist does not want to".

But sure its not their business what CL does...

Stifling or not stifling, it's always a huge risk to build your business around someone else's technology, especially one that has a track record of not cooperating with third parties.

> I just can't understand how a community of professionals could support Padmapper in this.

Well, for one thing: different ideas about what constitutes fair game for property/control claims.

Not everything can be copyrighted or patented, and specifically, it's really not clear that a rental/for sale/wanted listing is actually a copyrightable work.

If that weren't enough, though, there's also not really a clear difference between what Padmapper does and a search engine -- it doesn't "steal" listings and put them wholesale on their site without attribution, it provides a geographic search that yields a limited digest and then points users to the original source.

I'm also pretty confident that if it was the opposite (PadMapper suing Craigslist for using PadMapper data), then most people would be cheering on PadMapper.

Craigslist makes use of both Google Maps and Yahoo Mapquest to present locations of individual properties through links on the CL site.

Note that these are free links, not paid-for API calls.

Who's free-riding whom?

Craiglist provides links to Google and MQ, which is the basis of how the Internet and WWW works. Craiglist supplies the actual address data.

It would be different if Craiglist embedded the maps from GM or MQ, but in such case CL would probably do so with permission from those companies (possibly even--gasp--paying for the right to embed maps).

The point I was making is that CL are increasing the utility of their service by using Google/Yahoo to provide specific maps of property locations. The distinction is that the relevant data curation (property locations) is done by CL, not the mapping providers.

I also noted that API usage would have been paid (or at least licensed), so in that sense, CL are (legitimately) freeloading on Google and Yahoo. While the argument could be made that CL are sending traffic to these sites, that same argument would apply to Padmapper.

On a purely philosophical level, the data 'belongs' to the people posting it.

Actually, that's on a legal copyright data -- the expression of the information belongs to its author.

The facts themselves aren't subject to copyright.

Access through the CL site is governed by various computer use statutes. Though aggregation-via-proxy as PM are doing through Google cache raises some interesting issues.

"(Craigslist) said it offered a license that would have allowed PadMapper to use its data on mobile applications but that the competitor did not accept the terms."

But on the other hand, "users and developers are exasperated with Craigslist’s insistence on preserving an outdated interface and design."

I don't know the legal merits of either party's position, but from an ethical perspective, I tend to side with Craigslist here. Dissatisfaction with a commercial site's UI is not just cause for using their data without permission, particularly if they had made an effort to offer a licensing agreement, whatever the terms might have been.

I see this from the opposite viewpoint, that PadMapper is operating as a search engine designed to help you find the right Craigslist posts for your apartment hunt. Claiming that PadMapper's success is from Craigslist failing to 'provide a good UI' is like suggesting that Google News' success is because newspaper companies failed to provide good article SEO. Instead, it's a different modality of content discovery, and it ultimately redirects you to the original source.

In my (personal) opinion, I would argue that the content providers or aggregators and search engines benefit synergistically. CL and Belgian newspapers appear to disagree.

I don't think this has any legal bearing for anyone, but it's worth noting that Google respects publishers who do not wish to be indexed.

Here's the abstract for a nice review of search engine law: http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/13/ If I remember correctly, indexing a site that asks to not be indexed might be illegal as an illegal tresspass, but it is not settled law. The argument is that you are stealing resources (computer time) from the site owner.

>The argument is that you are stealing resources (computer time) from the site owner.

That's why 3taps is getting the data from google's cache without touching craigslist servers.

How the heck are they scraping Google without being banned or rate limited?

There are a lot of companies that are scraping Google quite successfully. Many of these are for 'rank checking' services that provide ranking data for certain keywords over time; these are heavily used by SEO and marketing agencies.

The two that jump to mind are Authority Labs and SEOmoz.

I guess: a shed load of proxies. :)

Amazon/ other clouds out there. Just auto provision your instances (lots of them), scrap, sleep, wake, scrap, sleep...

It's not impossible. You just tell google not to cache.

And makes it impossible to block them as a side effect.

IANAL but AFAIK it is only a civil matter (i.e. not illegal) since it is a usually prosecuted as a tort of trespass to chattels. For such a case to succeed the prosecution needs to show that the actions of the defendant deprived them of use of the good they were trespassing on. i.e. they need to cause enough of a burden on the servers that the claimant or their customers could not use the service.

What I'd care more about is whether the people posting the ads wish to be indexed; I'd be surprised if many don't. (I don't know about the legal bearing either.)

Perhaps craigslist could put up a checkbox (like they do with the never-checked "It's okay to contact me about products ...") that says something like:

"I'm okay with people finding this listing through another service."

Perhaps because they don't want people to get to their listings that way even if they want to, and thus don't want your opinion? (Edit: and perhaps they really aren't as interested as they claim in making it easier for buyers and sellers to find each other?)

So eventually this comes down to CL trying to protect it's monopoly as the listing site of the internet

For that analogy to hold, PadMapper would have to be pulling data from a large number of sources. The value that Google News provides is that it aggregates a very large number of sources. PadMapper does not.

In my city, Craigslist is hardly used for rental listings. Everybody uses kijiji.com, which is available on Padmapper. There are alternative data sources, and they are actually used. Just not where you are.

Padmapper collates data from multiple sources: Craigslist, Rent.com, Apartments.com, and "Others" (not sure which those would be).

It's pretty clear PadMapper was BUILT off of Craigslist that CL's poor UI is isn't entire reason for being, and it never would have been successful without CL. It's disingenuous to ignore that by listing "rent.com" as an alternate source.

> PadMapper does not.

It does.

It does not. One main source and a handful of secondary sources is not at all comparable to a true aggregator like Google News.

Look, it's obvious that even PadMapper believes Craigslist is THE data source they must have.

Google News could drop any given data source and not blink. PadMapper simply is not in the same position.

But without the Craigslist data it has no value.

Total nonsense. I found my current place with them, without craigslist.

But that is where the source of the problem is - CL has the largest user base for listing and classifieds on the internet and since they have the monopoly on this they have never felt the need to improve the experience on their site. Now that padmapper has started getting large number of users CL feels threatened and is suing them to shut them down.

Does PadMapper respect the robots.txt file?

PadMapper uses 3Taps.com to get the data. 3Taps gets Craigslist data through Google. Google's bot respects robots.txt.

So, yes.

[edit for clarity, and for misspelling clarity]

Well... "sort of", then. PadMapper respects the robots.txt for GoogleBot, not for PadMapper.

Presumably 3Taps violates Google's ToS to get the data from them ?

I would really love to know that kind of shady proxy bot army they have implemented in order to scrape Google on such a scale.

This type of comment is common. Not only on HN but on forums in general.

While I agree the web is full of lowlifes engaged in web development, many of them in porn or some other area that appeals to base instincts, I find this comment perplexing. Because it is so subjective, yet it tries to seem objective by focusing on some random criteria.

Google employs a "bot army" to scrape the entire web. So what?

If the comment was something like "I don't like Company X." Or even "I don't like Company X because...", it would make sense to me.

But that is not how this common type of comment goes. Instead it suggests that bot=evil, i.e. any sort of automation or any sort of data collection by anyone other than [your favorite company] is "shady".

That's crazy. IMO.

It's what a company does with the data that matters.

Anyway, I'm not keen on 3Taps because they are not provinding bulk data, only API's that require "developer keys". Why?

Either you are going to democratise data, or you are just another schemer trying to find ways to collect infromation about people, in this case people using "your API".

I don't want API's I want the data. I can make my own interfaces thank you.

I thought it was weird that CL didn't add a Disallow line for padmapper to robots.txt from the start (just from a PR perspective).

But robots.txt has no special legal authority, it's just a convention used to communicate a publisher's intent. I'm pretty sure the C&D letter made it 100% clear that CL did not want Padmapper crawling their site or using their data.

Padmapper doesn't crawl Craigslist. That's not how it happens.

...any more. Now they are using a third party, but at the time Craigslist sent the C&D they were scraping the site directly.

I know, but I thought the existence of robots.txt was why Google is allowed to crawl sites. If a site disagrees with the crawling they can add a robots.txt entry and Google will honor it. It at least shows that you are giving the publisher an option.

I don't like Craigslist because of lock in. Sellers must sell there because they are the biggest market, buyers must buy there because they are the biggest market. Everyone is locked in.

Lock-in is super common(and often unintentional or unavoidable), but it goes against the ideal of equal opportunity and competitive markets that rewards companies for a continuous commitment to quality and innovation.

I feel that craigslist has done nothing wrong except for standing in the doorway when other people who want to innovate and improve things are trying to get through (like PadMapper).

The reason why Craigslist is valuable is because of it's large network. It is obvious that smaller sites like PadMapper want to slowly try and chip away at Craiglist content (see PadLister) after they hopefully gain enough traction to supplant them. Padmapper / Padlister are fine to start their own sites and have users come and post their listings there, but not to copy content from Craigslist after they specifically asked them to stop.

> It is obvious that smaller sites like PadMapper want to slowly try and chip away at Craiglist content

It's not Craigslist's content. It's our content, the general public's. Craigslist is just a caretaker. Right now, it's a caretaker acting in its own interests against the public's.

The general public gave it to Craigslist under readily available terms. The general public is free to also give it to your service, but that's up to them.

This is disingenuous. Craigslist isn't doing the public's will. It's just taking advantage of public apathy. (Much like Microsoft did with the browser wars.)

Yes you did post some facts about your listing to CL, it is also well within Craigslists right to allow others to copy it or not. Just because you supplied the data to CL doesn't mean you can dictate to them how they should run their business.

A copyright clause designed to allow Craigslist to stop abuse shouldn't be used to squash competitors. That's not dictating "how they should run their business." That's telling them to stop being selfish.

How are they trying to squash competition? Padmapper isn't free to have users submit their listings to their own website?

> How are they trying to squash competition?

Again, disingenuous. CL has the network effect. That's like Microsoft saying, Users are free to install their own browsers. Their current actions are only to preserve that, not to squash abuses. (Which is what they usually do with the power of their TOU.)

So Apple should stop selling iPhones because it has a dominant position in the marketplace because it is the device most preferred by buyers?

Apple's network effect or market position clearly doesn't make other phones and devices a non-starter. Craiglist's network effect and market position clearly makes other housing listing sites a non-starter.

Big difference.

It also does not mean that CL has any obligation to provide that data to another for free. If you want the data in multiple locations, post it to those other locations.

The purpose of CL is to provide data for free. Why should they care how that data is packaged, so long as this packaging is not abusive, but actually beneficial?

The real reason: Craigslist wants to hold onto their monopoly position.

True, but it's also very easy as a buyer (or seller) to use more than one site. Nothing about Craigslist is exclusive and in that sense the lock-in is very weak.

A Craigslist competitor doesn't need a huge market share to be viable. For me as a seller, it just has to expand my audience of buyers enough to justify the small amount of time it takes to post and manage a second listing.

The license offered by craigslist was for a mobile application only. There was nothing offered for websites. You can see this as either, 'license offered with terms' or 'no license offered at all'

How do people not see this for exactly what it is: The same situation as we are finding with cable providers not wanting to be dumb pipes. The only difference is people don't pay money to CL. They just give CL all their information, and CL decides what to do with it.

Craigslist has no divine right to its users' information; it just happens to be the only viable option. If Craigslist didn't exist, someone else would, and would probably do it better.

If Craigslist wants to continue existing, they should take advantage of the fact that they are the go-to for online classifieds, create a modest subscription-based API and let the information flow.

The problem is that Craigslist has a monopoly. They use that monopoly to shut down competitors, resulting in millions of hours of lost time for users every month.

My logical brain says that suing Padmapper is perfectly reasonable. My emotional brain is crying at the idea of using raw Craigslist ads to find an apartment the next time I move to a new city.

I move to a new city every year, usually on short notice, and I often go into the process of apartment hunting with no knowledge of local neighborhoods, the public transportation system, or general geography. Without Padmapper, the process would be unbearable.

Yeah, I'm in a similar position. Every time I have to use Craigslist I come much closer to hating the team behind it. I mean, I know it's probably not rational, but I think they are being shitty people for locking up so much useful data behind a site that is designed to be miserable to use. It's pretty evil when you get down to it. It's obvious they don't care about users.

What's stopping someone from making a craiglist like website with an awesome UI?

It's hard to compete with a site that is both free and "everyone" uses already. Both of those are very strong barriers to entry.

Very true.

The challenge in building a brand and an audience that Craigslist has assembled.

If you build it, doesn't automatically mean that they will come.

network effects

That's ridiculous. Craigslist lets you refine your search down to the neighborhood. It's not that hard to use. People find apartments on there all the time.

Depends on which Craigslist you use -- the neighborhood listings aren't particularly granular, and neighborhoods themselves aren't fixed, so one person's Glen Park (for instance) could be another's Outer Mission. Using a map is an uncontestedly superior interface for organizing geographic data. People find apartments on Craiglist despite the interface.

This is not to address the issue of ownership of listing data, or the case law, which latter isn't settled anyway.

It may not that hard to use, but Padmapper is still a far superior experience (eg email alerts on apartments in an area which meet your criteria)

This isn't surprising of course, it is their data after all, but it brings up the 'easy problem' / 'hard problem' (E/H-P) conundrum quite nicely.

The conundrum is that it is 'easy' to take an existing, quality data source, and re-skin it for broader market appeal. This is something that Craigslist should be doing but perhaps through poor management are not. It is 'hard' to take a conceptual model of skinning and building a quality data source behind it.

As I said elsewhere, the PadMapper guys might have taken this to Craigslist and said "Look what we can do with your data, lets make happy music together." and then debated the terms. Or they could take their UX to the venture capital world and say "Look at this cool product we could build if we had access to a database with Craig list's quality" and debate cap tables and dilution (assuming they got to that stage of a term sheet).

But they chose the third route, "Lets see how long we can get away with this..." and the timer on that just ran out.

Sadly, this third path makes the first two paths much harder. Craigslist already sees them as the 'enemy' and VCs will see them as a team that makes poor choices. Both views make it harder (but certainly not impossible) to consummate a deal. However, from the blog and from previous postings here it seems they made those choices with their eyes open.

>This isn't surprising of course, it is their data after all,

But that's the thing. It isn't their data. They specifically say so in their TOS. The copyright belongs to the user.

You can't say the listing belongs to the user (to protect you from liability) on one hand, and then say the data belongs to craigslist on the other.

They could always do what map companies have done forever to prevent copyright. Facts can't be copyrighted so map makers insert fictional cities.

If someone copies the map they are copying the fictional city and thus violating their copyright.

Craigslist could add a fictional listing here and there that they do own the copyright to.

I hear you, but I don't know if the courts will agree with your interpretation. The reason for that is that the courts will look at the consequence of having that interpretation widely accepted and the impact on the current state of affairs. There are many many places where this has been litigated and the courts always come down on the side of the data aggregator owning rights to the data aggregated.

If PadMapper wanted to legally exploit the fact that the users own the listings, not Craigslist, they would have to establish a relationship with the user and get the information directly from them. They could contact the listing owners and suggest they list on PadListing. They can 'spiff' people who do so (meaning give them some benefit if they list on PadListing and the person discovers and rents through PadMapper). If they can prove that the listing owner asked them to list their property, Craigslist can't sue.

Alternatively PadMapper "need only"[1] create their own apartment listing service to have their own database where people listing apartments go to them directly. And that is a much harder thing to do than something which scrapes the listings from Craigslist and drops them on to a Google Map.

As a proof-of-concept, PadMapper is excellent. As a product, it has a data contamination issue.

[1] The scare quotes are there to acknowledge that its a challenge to get people to move from the known, to the new. I am trying to move people from Google to a new search service, its hard, its slow, but its the only way to do this and avoid this sort of litigation.

>If they can prove that the listing owner asked them to list their property, Craigslist can't sue.

Look at the Rightshaven case. The judge ruled that Rightshaven didn't have standing to sue on behalf just because the copyright holder granted it license to.

If that theory holds up, Craigslist wouldn't have standing to sue on behalf of the copyright holders.

Additionally copyright would only apply if the listings are considered creative works. Most of them are clearly simple statements of fact that wouldn't merit copyright protection in the first place.

As others have pointed out Craigslist can claim copyright to the collection. The legal theory I would expect them to use is that PadMapper wouldn't know about these listings if they didn't access Craigslist's collection, therefore their use of the collection violated Craigslist's copyright.

I did a quick Blekko for the case with the Yellow Pages that was litigated this way (but alas did not find it) where a AT&T sued the maker of a competitive Yellow Pages over using the collection of businesses in their book. The defendant argument was similar to yours, that they could have walked down the street and collected the information so the information wasn't copyrightable, but the judge ruled in favor of AT&T because it was clear the defendant could have done that but they didn't do that. There was some errors and omissions that mirrored the Yellow pages and 'proved' the defendant took their data from the Yellow Pages rather than collect it themselves.

For PadMapper to escape liability they have to be able to prove they came to know about these listings in some other way than through Craigslist's collection of them. They argued in their blog that 3Taps did that for them because they got them from 3Taps they aren't liable for what ever 3Taps is doing. And my take on it is that given the case law it will be a very hard thing to prove. If Eric Goldman is reading he could probably whip out a definitive argument here.

If it goes to trial I'll definitely follow the case to see how it plays out.

See this http://www.copyright.gov/reports/dbase.html

In Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Co, a phone directory was ruled to be protected by copyright only if the selection and arrangement of facts was an original creative act (listing numbers alphabetically was not).

I'm aware of a case after Feist where a yellow pages for chinese immigrants was copyrightable because of the creativity involved in selection of the facts and the arrangement into categories. But even then the facts themselves are not copyrightable.

Craigslist's selection is nonexistent, you send it they publish it. And the arrangement of the subset that padmapper is using is solely by geographic location and time. In addition padmapper is not copying the arrangement.

That is not what the Righthaven court said.

Righthaven did not have a copyright, it had a "right to sue" on behalf of the original copyright holder's copyright. The court deemed that insufficient to give Righthaven grounds to enforce the copyright, because Righthaven did not have any copyright or license therein. A right to sue is not considered a "copy right" because it involves no right to copy the material (i.e., by distribution or reproduction).

Craiglist does have a license to copyrighted content. It can actually "copy" the content. Ergo, it has the right to enforce its license against non-licensed users.

The judge in the Righthaven case said this...

"Because the SAA (lawsuit contract) prevents Righthaven from obtaining any of the exclusive rights necessary to maintain standing in a copyright infringement action, the court finds that Righthaven lacks standing in this case,"

Craigslist ToS doesn't grant them exclusive rights, thus by that judge's definition they don't have standing to sue.

>Craigslist ToS doesn't grant them exclusive rights, thus by that judge's definition they don't have standing to sue. That is not what the judge is saying. By "exclusive" rights he does not mean wholly exclusive in the colloquial sense (i.e.,, sole person with such rights); the judge meant "exclusive" in the legal sense that Righthaven could exclude non-licensees from using such rights.

> I am trying to move people from Google to a new search service

Care to share? I've been trying to move away from google, but DuckDuckGo's search results are so often massively inferior. Other suggestions would be nice to have!

I have no idea how this is going to playout but if there's a copyright argument to be made, it won't be on the copyright of each listing, but the copyright on the compilation of the listings.

You can't say the listing belongs to the user on one hand, and then say the data belongs to craigslist on the other.

You can in fact make this argument in the case of compilations in copyright law - think a compilation of short stories or one of those "Songs of the 90s albums" - the initial authors still own their work, but the entity which creates the compilation still owns the right to the entire compiled work.

(I intentionally edited your statement - don't want to bring liability into this, I think its a separate issue and a bit of a red herring w/r/t this discussion).

I don't think it's as clearcut as saying its a compilation.

Here is the relevant wikipedia section on compilation copyright

>Copyright Act allows for the protection of "compilations," provided there is a "creative" or "original" act involved in such a compilation, such as in the selection (deciding which things to include or exclude), and arrangement (how they are shown and in what order). The protection is limited only to the selection and arrangement, not to the facts themselves, which may be freely copied.

>The Supreme Court decision in Feist v. Rural..rejected what was known as the "sweat of the brow" doctrine, in ruling that no matter how much work was necessary to create a compilation, a non-selective collection of facts ordered in a non-creative way is not subject to copyright protection.

I think there is a good argument that there is no creativity on Craigslist's part in selecting postings, since they aren't selecting them--users are uploading them. If true selection wouldn't be covered.

The arrangement might be (if it can be said to be creative), but I'm assuming padmapper isn't copying their arrangement.

The individual posts belong to the users, that is true. However one post alone is worthless. What's valuable is Craigslist's collection of posts with lots of relevant data (location, description, price, etc). This collection belongs to Craigslist because their servers provide the environment for it, plus they wrote the architecture and back-end to support it.

See my answer to mikeryan's post above for information on why that is not necessarily the case. An individual phone number is worthless as well, the collection is valuable. But case law says a phonebook isn't covered by copyright.

I see two problems with your argument:

1) You are comparing physical media to a web service

2) You are confusing content with access to content

Since you mentioned Phonebook, let's take yellowpages.com This site has much of the same information that a phonebook does. I would argue that it would be illegal for company B to scrape yellowpages.com for this information in order to make money without express permission from yellowpages.com. However, if Company B found another way to access the same information (ex: scanning physical phonebooks or asking people to sign up to their site) then I'd say they're within the law.

Craigslist is 100% within their rights to control who accesses their service and how. If CL users want to register for Padmapper and post the same ads on both services then that's their prerogative.

>if Company B found another way to access the same information (ex: scanning physical phonebooks or asking people to sign up to their site) then I'd say they're within the law.

Company B has found another way. They are getting the data from Google's cache of the craigslist.

Padmapper is not touching Craigslist's servers at all.

The users never agreed to their data being displayed on any other sites besides CL. If they wanted that to happen they would personally place their listings on other websites, or sign up for some type of 'post your classified add to 100s of sites from us' service, which CL clearly is not.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Craigslist has standing to sue on it's users behalf however. Also most of those listings don't merit copyright protection, because they are statements of fact not creative works.

The user owns the post and grants CL the right to display it, and the TOS also grants CL the right to prevent others from displaying it without CL's permission.

If the user isn't posting a creative work just a statement of fact, it doesn't what the user says--it's not protected by copyright.

>the TOS also grants CL the right to prevent others from displaying it without CL's permission.

Just because the ToS says it doesn't mean it will work. Recently a judge said that a copyright troll called Rightshaven didn't have standing to sue on behalf of copyright holders for works that they licensed.

Assemblages of fact are protected by copyright tpateck has commented in the previous threads on Padmapper about this. This is why a Farmers Almanac is under copyright and I cannot wholesale copy a phonebook or Encyclopedia Britannica without infringing their rights.

Regarding Righthaven, the original media company never gave Righthaven control of the copyright of their data, just the right to sue. This is why it was struck down.

As for Righthaven's lack of standing to sue over Review-Journal content, Hunt wrote the recently unsealed lawsuit contract between Righthaven and Stephens Media -- called the Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) -- clearly leaves Stephens Media in control of the copyrights and gives Righthaven only the right to sue.

In order to file lawsuits, copyright plaintiffs have to have actual control of the copyrights, not just the right to sue, Hunt found.


See Feist v. Rural

Phone books are not protected by copyright unless there is something original about their selection or organization.

Assemblages of fact aren't protected, only the selection and arrangement of those facts. In addition the selection and arrangement has to be "creative."

The selection is definitely not a creative act on craigslist's part b/c they don't select anything, users post the information.

Craigslist posting selection is nonexistent. Therefore they are only left with "creative" arrangement for protection.

You could argue that the arrangement is a creative act. I don't think the arrangement counts because they are only using a subset of craigslist and that is merely arranged by geographical location, definitely not an original "creative" arrangement, but it doesn't matter because Padmapper isn't copying the arrangement.

See this for more information. http://www.copyright.gov/reports/dbase.html

>Regarding Righthaven, the original media company never gave Righthaven control of the copyright of their data, just the right to sue. This is why it was struck down.

The judge in the Righthaven case said this...

"Because the SAA (lawsuit contract) prevents Righthaven from obtaining any of the exclusive rights necessary to maintain standing in a copyright infringement action, the court finds that Righthaven lacks standing in this case,"

Craigslist ToS doesn't grant them exclusive rights, thus by that judge's definition they don't have standing to sue.

With regard to the re-skin there was quite some external interest in this around 2009. Wired Magazine asked several leading designers to present their version of Craigslist redux.


An article in the same interest, "Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess" ( http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/magazine/17-09/ff_... ).

Your kidding, right? Until today, I had never heard of Padmapper, but I have hated (like everyone else) CLs interface.

CL just put them on the map in a big way as being "Craigslist with a good UI" -- so good, they had to sue. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I find this sort of thing very frustrating to read:

"The search tool is antiquated, the images are poor or nonexistent, locations of listings are hardly dependable, and you can forget about an integrated way to save anything for later reference. There is a litany of shortcomings that come with the Craigslist apartment search; they are many and they are painful..."

If you don't like the site, don't like the UI, and can't stand the UX, then don't use the site. Nobody is forcing you to search for an apartment on CL. Nobody is forcing owners to list apartments on CL.

And so now we get to the meat ...

"...Your site is chock-full of data I need..."

Ahh...data you NEED.

So here's the thing. If you truly need the data, then you need Craigslist and you have an obligation to use it the way they (and only they) want you to use it. If you don't like the way they want you to use it, there are several choices:

* Go work for them and convince them to improve it. * Build a better mousetrap.

The former probably won't succeed, so the latter seems to be the way to go.

Look, there's nothing preventing landlords from listing their apartments on Craigslist AND your new Craigslist replacement/improvement. They're not locked in. If they were, that would be a whole different discussion - then we can talk about anti-competitive, innovation-stifling behavior. But that's not the case - the only reason people list apartments on CL is because it works. Despite the bad UI. Hence the reason CL hasn't changed it.

So it's the job of some enterprising entrepreneur not only ro build a better mousetrap, but convince people to use it. Until that happens, as much as I too dislike the Craigslist UI, I can't say I support PadMapper on this one.

If you don't like the site, don't like the UI, and can't stand the UX, then don't use the site. Nobody is forcing you to search for an apartment on CL. Nobody is forcing owners to list apartments on CL.

Apartments aren't a fungible item. If I'm looking for an apartment in a certain area and 75% of the apartments in that area are only being listed on Craigslist, then how can I realistically "choose" to use another avenue for apartment listings?

Look, there's nothing preventing landlords from listing their apartments on Craigslist AND your new Craigslist replacement/improvement.

There are huge barriers preventing landlords from listing their apartments outside of craigslist. Nothing is as popular, so why waste the time? They don't have hours to scour the internet looking for alternatives, nor do they probably want to have to manage listings at many difference sites.

There are huge barriers preventing landlords from listing their apartments outside of craigslist. Nothing is as popular, so why waste the time?

I think you have a flawed idea of what constitutes "huge barriers". The only thing stopping them from listing elsewhere is a cost-benefit analysis? I weep.

I think you are looking at this backwards. How many listings are there on Craigslist for a given city? 100, 200, 500, 1000? (I know city dependent)

There is absolutely no reason that PadMapper cannot call them on the phone, and ask them to list with PadMapper. They can make it trivially easy supporting email, phone, or fax listings. They can sell them on using PadMapper.

Many apartments are owned by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) there are dozens (not hundreds) of those. You can sell the REIT on the concept of easy listings that are so much better/cleaner/easier than Craigslist.

Craigslist was created when near every apartment was listed in the Classified Ads in the print newspaper. That wasn't "lock in" it was an opportunity, they sold these folks on lower costs (since Classifieds were a money fund for newspapers) Landlords hated the extortionate prices that the newspapers charged but they didn't have an alternative, Craigslist gave them that alternative, they moved.

So the 'answer' here is to actually build a classifieds business around rental space. That takes more than slinging some node.js and scraping other sites. Granted its 'easier' for a technical person to do it that way, but its not a 'sustainable' way of doing it.

That wasn't "lock in" it was an opportunity, they sold these folks on lower costs (since Classifieds were a money fund for newspapers) Landlords hated the extortionate prices that the newspapers charged but they didn't have an alternative, Craigslist gave them that alternative, they moved.

But you are using an example in which there was a clear downside to using the existing listing model. The price. If you are a landlord and you have no problem renting out apartments in a reasonable amount of time on Craigslist, and it's free, what exactly can another site offer that is "better"?

They are already getting their apartments rented, there is minimal overhead to using Craigslist. You can't compete with Craigslist on price, unless you are actually giving landlords money for listing on your site. And trying to say "It's easier for users to find your properties." doesn't help if they aren't having a problem with renting out their properties.

> If you truly need the data, then you need Craigslist and you have an obligation to use it the way they (and only they) want you to use it.

This is what we call a monopoly. Many people (apartment hunters in this context) need to use Craigslist because there are no viable alternatives. Just like you have to pay your local utility for water or power -- there are alternatives, but not viable ones.

And a two-sided monopoly is a very real monopoly.

The difference is that other monopolies get regulated; Craigslist is not. Given their current behavior, I'd strongly support a law that explicitly denies craigslist any exclusive right to their listing data.

> If you don't like the site, don't like the UI, and can't stand the UX, then don't use the site. Nobody is forcing you to search for an apartment on CL. Nobody is forcing owners to list apartments on CL.

Yes they are being "forced" to list on CL, because as much as you hate the UX, UI, etc., that's where the buyers are. And as much as the buyers hate the site, that's where the sellers are. I hate CL, but I was forced to use it because lock-in makes it impossible for anyone else to compete.

> Look, there's nothing preventing landlords from listing their apartments on Craigslist AND your new Craigslist replacement/improvement. They're not locked in.

That's disingenuous. Craigslist is pretty much the only game in town in many places. Let's say you need to find a person with a specific need, willing to pay $2000 a month. If you don't find this person, you have to pay the $2000 a month. How do you feel about not using Craigslist now?

Too much obsession over UI.

What people really "need" is the raw data.

If they want to make some UI that they like, then they can do it. If they want to offer this to others, they can do it.

If they want to load the data into some SQL database, they can do it.

If they want split the data into some other format using csplit and load into some other faster database, they can do it.

If they want to extract a portion of a raw file and just use agrep on that, they can do it.

The point is that UI is a personal decision.

Because some people do not like CL's bare bones UI doesn't give them the right to do anything. Because some people don't like bloated and clumsy web interfaces and prefer text commands doesn't give them the right to do anything either.

But people can't be stopped from making personal decisions about how to process data. Public data.

It's funny how some websites think they "own" data that is given to them. Do they "need" this data? Yes, they do.

Here's a nugget from the article which I didn't hear anything about in the previous Padmapper postings and chat here on HN:

"The company said it offered a license that would have allowed PadMapper to use its data on mobile applications but that the competitor did not accept the terms."

This kind of market segmentation through restrictive content licenses is something I'd expect from Hollywood, not Craigslist. It's extremely distasteful and they should feel bad. There's simply no good reason to allow mobile apps but prohibit web apps. Would Craigslist offer a license to a Firefox OS app? How about a Chrome OS app?

It was in PadMapper's original blog post about the C&D letter

That is meaningless. The terms may well have been ridiculous (only covering mobile is a good start at ridiculous).

I wonder what would happen if their mobile app was simply a browser shell pointing to a mobile-optimized website. That mobile-optimized website could be accessible from a desktop, though unadvertised.

That caught me as soon as I read it too. I didn't recall that part mentioned earlier.

From the original: > They allow mobile apps to display their listings if you buy a license from them, but not websites.

How many people use PadMapper on a mobile device, vs. the desktop site?

Their iPad app is one of my guilty pleasures. (ditto HotPads and Redfin)

that is actually the point at which i lost sympathy for craigslist. they can license the data or not, but if they do they should not get to demand where and how it is used

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