3taps Is Raring to Fight Craigslist Over Data Access
The CEO of a company sued by Craigslist earlier this week said he’s armed (with legal precedents, not weapons) and ready to fight the local classifieds giant.
“We believe Craigslist is acting like a copyright troll,” said Greg Kidd, who founded the data exchange 3taps in 2009. He contends that basic information in an exchange can’t be covered by copyright. “Just because you can write a snarky TOU doesn’t make it so.”
Craigslist sued 3taps alongside PadMapper, a site that provides an alternate interface with sorting tools for apartment listings. That followed an earlier exchange in which Craigslist forced PadMapper to take down its Craigslist-sourced data, but then the site turned to 3taps to bring back Craigslist posts.
A week ago, Craigslist filed a lawsuit in federal district court against PadMapper and 3taps, alleging copyright and trademark infringement, breach of contract and unfair competition, among other claims.
But 3taps says it is specifically designed in order to not gather data directly from Craigslist — which has historically expressed concern about added pressure on its servers from aggregators. Rather, 3taps uses methods such as scraping cached pages on search engines.
The San Francisco-based company is quite focused on its crosstown neighbors at Craigslist. 3taps rather blatantly labels its service as “Your One-Stop Craigslist API,” and it had built its own alternative interface to Craigslist, called Craiggers, which is still live but no longer linked from the 3taps front page.
It’s clear that 3taps is raring for a fight. Here’s Kidd’s somewhat ominous description of the situation, in an email to AllThingsD:
“We may be tech geeks, but there’s another side to our doings on the public policy side of the ledger.
“And bite they did.”
Kidd — who was formerly an analyst at the U.S. Federal Reserve and was an early investor in Twitter and Square — said 3taps has retained Morrison Foerster’s copyright team in order to fight Craigslist over the issue of what exactly is in the public domain.
Craigslist has a history of aggressively protecting its classified postings by sending cease-and-desist letters to outside developers and filing lawsuits against them. It will be interesting to see if 3taps taking the company head-on could help set a legal precedent on the matter.
For his part, Kidd clearly didn’t give me the standard “we can’t talk about pending litigation” line, instead rattling off references to a couple of Supreme Court decisions over whether facts can be copyrighted.
3taps as a company is working to prepare a set of public statements about its position that tries to paint Craigslist as anti-innovation and immensely profitable, despite describing itself as a benevolent community caretaker.
But the specific legal issue is about data access. Here’s that talking point, as sent to AllThingsD in a draft Thursday night:
“Craigslist can’t have it both ways; either they make their users’ data available to search engines in order to drive website hits, or they keep it private. But not both.”
To be fair, Craigslist does allow some developers access to its data, but that’s specifically through a license for display on mobile devices.
Craigslist has not replied to requests for comment on the matter. A month ago, founder Craig Newmark tweeted a statement of sorts: “folks, please remember, #craigslist community feedback massively against the use of their stuff for the profit of others.”
Meanwhile, PadMapper developer Eric DeMenthon was a bit more conciliatory when we talked with him about the lawsuit earlier this week. “I wish we had just been able to talk and reach a reasonable solution, but they weren’t willing to talk with me about it,” he said. “I would have been willing to do quite a bit, including shutting down whatever they thought was competitive about the site.”