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Craigslist drops claim of exclusive license to posts

Just two weeks ago, the leading classifieds site implemented a provision demanding exclusive rights to users' posts. Now, it has quietly let it go.

Craigslist has dropped a provision that would have asserted exclusive rights to users' content.
Screenshot by CNET

Craigslist has dropped a provision claiming an exclusive license to users' posts just two weeks after implementing it in a bid to fend off third-parties trying to re-purpose the site's content.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Craigslist quietly abandoned the provision, which the EFF said also claimed the exclusive right to "enforce copyrights against anyone copying, republishing, distributing, or preparing derivative works without...consent."

The provision was first spotted about a week ago -- not long after the site sued PadMapper and 3taps for harvesting listings without permission and using them in PadMapper's offerings of apartment listings superimposed on a Google Map.

The EFF today wrote:

For many years, Craigslist has been a good digital citizen. Its opposition to SOPA/PIPA was critically important, and it has been at the forefront of challenges to Section 230 and freedom of expression online. We understand that Craigslist faces real challenges in trying to preserve its character and does not want third parties to simply reuse its content in ways that are out of line with its user community's expectations and could be harmful to its users.

Nevertheless, it was important for Craigslist to remove the provision because claiming an exclusive license to the user's posts -- to the exclusion of everyone, including the original poster -- would have harmed both innovation and users' rights, and would have set a terrible precedent. We met with Craigslist to discuss this recently and are pleased about their prompt action.

Craigslist did not immediately reply to a request for comment. This story will be updated if the service provides a response.

The EFF worried that the new provision would have exposed users wanting to publish ads on multiple services to potential infringement claims. "Moreover, removing the exclusive license provision retains Craigslist's compatibility with common licensing schemes, like the Creative Commons ShareAlike license or the GNU Free Documentation License," the EFF wrote. "And Craigslist's change lessens the chance that other Web sites will start demanding ownership of the content you post there."