A week after Craigslist finally got its emancipation from eBay, some closure on another long-standing legal battle for the listings site: the local listings giant has now finally reached a settlement with big data company 3taps over claims that 3taps and companies using its data were scraping and stealing Craigslist IP, and counterclaims from 3taps that Craigslist was violating antitrust laws.
In the settlement, 3taps, PadMapper and Lovely will collectively ay Craigslist $3.1 million — $1 million from 3taps; $2.1 million from Lovely and nothing from PadMapper. Craigslist has pledged to donate the $1 million paid by 3taps to the Electronic Frontier Foundation over 10 years. The EFF had backed 3taps in its legal fight against the local listings giant.
“Although 3taps lacks the resources to continue the fight, this settlement provides much needed resources to the EFF, as there is still much to be done on the issues raised in this case,” reads a statement from 3taps.
Craigslist hasn’t made too much of a statement except a short blog post from its CEO Jim Buckmaster titled “Exeunt Omnes” (all leave the stage). It links to the judgements, and quotes from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice on mercy.
Meanwhile, as part of the judgment, there is now a permanent injunction against 3taps, PadMapper and Lovely, forbidding them to use any part of Craigslist’s data in their commercial services.
The resolution puts to an end years of legal fighting — the first suit was filed in 2012 — between Craigslist and startups that were seeking to disrupt the company’s business in the name of innovation, raising questions about who owns data on the Internet in the process.
While Craigslist had come to dominate the local classifieds market in many cities around the U.S. and further afield, a lot of users lamented the lack of innovation on the site, where it was impossible to use modern techniques for more granular searches for apartments and other items on the platform.
More enterprising people saw an opportunity to create new services that presented CL data in different and more easy-to-use ways, which appeared to even be encouraged by CL, 3taps notes:
As recently as 2010, craigslist welcomed innovative uses of the publicly available data posted on craigslist.org by its users. Craig Newmark—the founder and Chairman of craigslist—publicly invited such innovation on Quora.
Some, like PadMapper for finding Craigslisted apartments to rent according to a map view (believe it or not, you couldn’t even do that on CL at the time), started to pick up a lot of traction, and that ruffled CL’s feathers, leading the company first to send a cease-and-desist note to PadMapper, and then eventually to file suit against it and its data supplier 3taps for data theft and copyright violations. It also issued cease-and-desist letters to a number of other services offering their own search and analytics on top of CL data. Many services closed down as a result.
PadMapper and Lovely, customers of 3taps, stayed with the latter company as it trudged through the costly process of defending itself. They eventually stayed with 3taps as it filed a countersuit against Craigslist for antitrust practices, specifically pinpointing that the data on the site was not “owned” by CL but in the public domain by the people posting their items.
3taps made some progress: It got the copyright suit thrown out, with a court acknowledging that Craigslist did not own the copyright to posts on its site, users did; CL admitted that they weren’t harmed by the use; and CL rewrote its own terms and conditions as a result (a key change after an unpopular move where the company tried to claim that postings on its site were “exclusive” to Craigslist). Those terms now make it clear that data can be used exclusively for non-commercial purposes. But even with all that change, there was still an ongoing legal battle that was too costly to fight.
From what we understand, while sites like PadMapper and Lovely were named in the original CL suits, 3taps was essentially handling the case.
On top of the basic $1 million settlement, Greg Kidd, the founder of 3taps who is also an investor by way of his firm Hard Yaka (he was also an investor in Twitter before it was public), will be making a “substantial investment” in PadMapper.
Lovely, another company named in the suit, was eventually acquired by TPG and its RentPath subsidiary (TPG is also an investor in Airbnb) in 2014. It has its own direct settlement in the case and is not part of the payout made by 3taps.
While Craigslist has been trying to get its IP house in order, the company was also slowly working on rebuilding its own services, adding more features to its maps, and updating its UI among the changes.
Ironically, while Craigslist might have been painted as Goliath in its battle with 3taps, the company was living with an even bigger presence, in the form of the nearly 30 percent stake owned by even bigger fish eBay. eBay and Craigslist had been locked in a legal battle for years to sell back that stake, which they finally did last week as eBay geared up for a much bigger divestment of PayPal.
Updated with more detail on and links to the full three settlements and other detail.