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Craigslist Gets a $40 Million CAN-SPAM Judgment

John Levine

Classified ad site craigslist is famously protective of its contents. While they are happy for search engines like Google to index the listings, they really, really do not like third parties to scrape and republish their content in other forms. In 2013 craigslist sued a company called 3taps which had created an API for craigslist data. They also sued real estate site Padmapper, which showed craigslist and other apartment listings on a map, something craigslist didn't do at the time. After extensive legal wrangling, 3taps eventually gave up and in 2015 paid craigslist $1 million and shut down. Craigslist donated the money to the EFF which was a little odd since the EFF had generally supported 3taps.

One of 3taps' other customers was another real estate site Radpad, which kept showing craigslist listings after 3taps shut down.

Radpad has since gone bankrupt, and last week the court accepted and the bankruptcy administrator did not contest an impressive settlement with craigslist.

It lists all of the bad stuff that craigslist alleged that Radpad did, including copyright infringement of about 130 craigslist listings, scraping 80,000 people's contact information from craigslist, and sending them 400,000 e-mail messages through craigslist's system in violation of CAN SPAM. (The particular violations alleged were fake return addresses and fake subject lines to make it appear that the messages were from a live person.) A detailed injunction forbids Radpad to do any of the things craigslist objected to.

The interesting piece is the damages: $60.5 million, of which $40 million is CAN-SPAM damages for the 400,000 messages at $100 each. I think that's the largest CAN-SPAM judgment ever.

It's worth noting that Radpad initially denied all of craigslist's allegations, but stopped defending the case when they went bankrupt. The bankruptcy administrator was not a target of the suit. They just added the judgment to the pile of claims against Radpad that are unlikely ever to be paid.

The judgment does allow craigslist to keep pursuing the people who did the scraping, so it's possible we haven't yet heard the last of this case.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker
Related topics: Law, Spam
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