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? Yelp targets 80legs, a “web crawler” that automatically visits Yelp and gathers reviews, which it then sells to third parties for re-posting. Craigslist sued 3taps, a service that gathers Craigslist postings from search engines, indexes them, and makes them available to third parties. Craigslist also named as a defendant PadMapper.com, an apartment-hunting website that obtains Craigslist apartment listings from 3taps and superimposes them on a map, along with listings from other sources. Prior to sourcing from 3taps, PadMapper obtained listings from Craigslist’s servers through an automated process known as “scraping.” Craigslist argues that display of Craigslist user content by unauthorized sites harms its users, who specifically entrust highly personal content to Craigslist. But critics suggest that PadMapper and other mobile applications and websites like it emerged due to Craigslist’s failure to address user needs. 3taps has publicly stated that because Craigslist willingly makes listings available to search engines, there is nothing wrong with 3taps further aggregating and indexing that data.
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