ALM Properties, Inc.
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Is it Legal to Re-Post User Content from Craigslist and Yelp?
Is the new restaurant around the corner worth trying? Grab your laptop or smartphone and visit Yelp.com for reviews from other diners. Looking to rent an apartment? Head to Craigslist.org for local classifieds posted by users. Yelp, Craigslist, TripAdvisor.com, and websites like them have built businesses around compiling and presenting user ads or reviews--and they are none too happy when other websites re-post that content without permission. In the last six months, Yelp and Craigslist filed federal lawsuits claiming such behavior violates their intellectual property rights and their websites terms of service. (Yelp Inc. v. Datafiniti LLC et al., Case No. CV 12 1444, N.D. Cal. [filed March 22, 2012]; Craigslist, Inc. v. 3taps, Inc. et al., Case No. CV 12 3816, N.D. Cal. [filed July 20, 2012].) Is your company engaging in such behavior? What steps should you take to minimize exposure?
Avoiding Copyright Claims
Avoiding Trademark Claims
Trademark law protects brand names like Yelp or Craigslist. But, in these cases the nominative fair use doctrine may apply because trademark rights are not violated when the brand name is used to identify the brand owners goods or services. For example, a shoe store may advertise that it sells Nike and Reebok shoes without permission from the brand owners, so long as the advertisement is accurate and does not suggest joint sponsorship or endorsement.
Damages are required for a successful contract claim. While Yelp may value its data by looking at 80legss revenues, and both Yelp and Craigslist could compare against their data licensing programs, it should be interesting to see how Craigslist formulates its damages against PadMapper. PadMapper does not charge users and does not display ads. PadMapper used to deep link users back to the original Craigslist ad until Craigslist objected. Craigslist also does not charge users to view or post classifieds and does not superimpose advertising.
Yelps lawsuit is in settlement discussions. A preliminary conference in the Craigslist case is set for December. 3tapss founder, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, recently told the press that he would burn some shares to oppose Craigslist, so interesting rulings may follow. In the meantime, your company should make sure it thoroughly understands what user content it displays, how the content is obtained, and the terms of any agreements governing the content, and then explore options for adjusting to minimize risk.