Craigslist Can Proceed With Misappropriation Case Against Rivals

Gavel-AB1

Handing a preliminary victory to Craigslist, a federal judge ruled that the company can move forward with a lawsuit accusing three companies -- PadMapper, Lively and 3Taps -- of misappropriating the site's listings.

In an opinion issued this week, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California said Craigslist was entitled to proceed even though the listings themselves were created by users and not the company.

The lawsuit dates to last summer, when Craigslist sued 3Taps, PadMapper and Lively for allegedly misappropriating real estate listings. PadMapper allegedly meshed Craigslist's apartment listings with Google maps -- which enables apartment seekers to easily search for apartments by neighborhood. Lovely also allegedly drew on Craigslist's offered searchable apartment listings at Livelovely.com.

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Both companies obtained the listings from 3Taps, which scraped Craigslist and makes data accessible to developers, according to Craigslist.

Craigslist alleged that its terms of service prohibit other companies from reposting any listings. The company also said it sent cease and desist letters to Lively, PadMapper and 3Taps, but the companies didn't stop drawing on Craigslist's real estate ads. Craigslist adds that it attempted to prevent 3Taps from scraping listings by blocking IP addresses associated with the company.

Craigslist argued in its legal papers that its copyright in the listings was infringed by all three companies, and that 3Taps engaged in computer fraud by accessing the site without authorization.

Breyer ruled this week that Craigslist could pursue copyright infringement charges for listings created between July 16 and Aug. 8, 2012. During that three-week period, Craigslist's terms of use provided that people who submitted listings granted the site an exclusive license to them. The opinion also allows Craigslist to proceed with a variety of other counts, including trademark infringement and breach of contract.

Breyer also ruled that Craigslist could continue to pursue computer fraud charges against 3Taps for allegedly scraping the listings despite Craigslist's efforts to block 3Taps' IP addresses. But the judge wrote that it was an “open question” whether the computer fraud law applies when the operator of a publicly available Web site attempts to restrict access by a competitor.

Last year, after Craigslist filed suit, PadMapper and 3Taps struck back with their own antitrust lawsuit against the listings site for allegedly engaging in anti-competitive conduct. Breyer granted Craigslist's request to stay “discovery” -- or the exchange of evidence -- in that case, effectively putting the matter on hold.

 

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