Craigslist vs. craigslist blogger, round three

by Mathew on April 5, 2008 · 6 comments

The blogger that Craigslist sent a cease-and-desist letter to earlier this week isn’t going to back down quietly, it seems. He has published a response on craigslistblog.org to Jim Buckmaster’s recent post, in which he says that the ads were just to “cover some hosting costs.” He also says that with his misleading post, the Craigslist CEO has “tarnished Craig Newmark’s reputation forever,” and that Buckmaster should “do the right thing and step down today.” Gee, Tim — hyperbole much? (this post has since been removed, I presume as a result of legal counsel).

My earlier post on it and update follow:

Update:

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has posted an entry to the new Craigslist blog in which he apologizes for the “ham-handed” C&D letter described below, which the site sent to a blog called Craigslistblog.org. But Buckmaster also provides some more details about why the classified service went after Tim White’s blog; among other things, he says the blog was running misleading text ads with Craigslist’s name in them (the ads were apparently removed from the site before the blog post got a lot of attention).

To me, that changes things substantially. One of the principles behind domain-squatting cases is that in order to avoid such accusations, a domain should have been registered and used in good faith — in other words, not to generate revenue based on the potential misunderstanding generated by a similar domain name. It seems pretty clear that Craigslistblog.org was designed to do that, and so I am backing Craigslist on this one. Jim Buckmaster’s post, incidentally, is a nice example of how to apologize and still make your point.

Original post:

Seems like Craigslist is in some hot water over a blog. But not because its new official blog is really ugly, poorly-designed and difficult to use, which it is — although given the somewhat… er, “distinctive” look and feel of the classified site itself, it’s probably not surprising that the blog looks like my daughter’s fifth-grade class designed it using a version of Microsoft’s FrontPage from 1998 (Craigslist doesn’t have ads? Not to be outdone, the blog doesn’t have comments or an RSS feed).

In any case, it’s not Craigslist’s official blog that’s the issue — it’s a site called Craigslistblog.org, which was started up about a month ago by a guy named Tim White as a way of getting some discussion going about Craigslist, both good and bad. Then he got a rather brusque C&D letter from none other than Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, which Tim has posted on his site. In no uncertain terms, it directs Tim to stop using the domain and the name Craigslist immediately or face legal action.

Tim,

We need you to stop using the infringing domain CRAIGSLISTBLOG.ORG immediately, and arrange for tranfer of it to us asap – using/selling/transfering infringing domains is illegal, and penalties up to $100,000 per domain can be applied.

Tim, however, responds that Jim has “gotten some bad legal counsel” and asks whether the company plans to shut down other sites with craigslist in the name, such as craigslistmap.info. Jim then copies Tim on a letter to Craigslist’s attorneys, in which he not-so-subtly mentions that the law firm does intellectual property work for “Google and a lot of other prominent companies.” As far as I can tell, Tim isn’t planning to back down.

Is Craigslist in the right here? I’m not a lawyer (although I sometimes play one on TV), but from my reading of past cases involving domain disputes, both WIPO rules and U.S. law require complainants to satisfy several conditions in order to win such a case. The first one — whether the domain name is confusingly similar — is a slam dunk for sure. But the other criteria are whether the defendant is making legitimate fair use of the name, and whether it was registered in bad faith (i.e. whether the defendant registered it with intent to profit from the confusion).

Those last two are a lot harder to answer, and I happen to think Tim has a pretty good case. Whether he can withstand a legal onslaught from Craigslist — which has about $60-million or so a year to play around with, as far as I can tell from the recent revenue numbers — is a separate question. It’s also interesting to note the anti-Craigslist comments on Tim’s post. I expect plenty of criticism of the classified site based on the contrast between its touchy-feely ethos and its actions.

  • http://craigslistcriticism.blogspot.com/2008/04/craigslistblogorg-does-craigslist-have.html Delia

    Matthew,

    Caigslist shouldn't have any claim to the craigslistblog.org and should have lost all claims to the craigslist.org domain when they turned for profit, *way back*, (unfortunately the dot org domain remains unregulated so craigslist still gets away with redirecting traffic from craigslist.com to craigslist.org continuing to give the appearance that craigslist is still a non-profit).

    Delia

  • http://www.onlinemediacultist.com Eric Berlin

    I didn't have a problem with the original communication. It was a little bit lawyerly and cold of course, but isn't that the point? I suppose they *might* have caught more flies with the proverbial honey by offering to move them over to alternate URL (perhaps?), but the point was to basically scare squatters (in craigslist's view — and I think they have a pretty good case) off their land, right?

    And I get the feeling — particularly in learning about the misleading text ads — that Tim and co. wouldn't have been so friendly toward any suggestions from craigslist.

  • http://startup-forums.com james

    Craigslist is just getting way too big headed for what they are . Sure you have free classifieds, but there are a lot of free classified sites out there with half the egos

  • http://craigslistproxy.tumblr.com/ Craigslist Proxy

    Very interesting. Never ceases to amaze me what you find online or happening on the net these days.

  • jebartle

    an alternative to the adult content on Craigslist is http://www.j812.net

  • jebartle

    an alternative to the adult content on Craigslist is http://www.j812.net

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