Craigslist Inc. v. 3Taps Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Infringement
  • Date Filed: 05-08-2013
  • Case #: No. CV 12-03816 CRB.
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court, N.D. California
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61837
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 1819999
  • Full Text Opinion

A party can only sue for copyright infringement if it has an exclusive license or ownership interest. Such an interest can be evidenced by a writing that shows a parties' intent to transfer the copyright to the moving party.

Opinion (Breyer): Use of the website ("Craigslist"), which allows users to browse classified advertisements, is governed by its Terms of Use (“TOU”). Users must affirmatively accept the TOU before posting an ad. From July 16, 2012 through August 8, 2012, Craigslist presented users with an additional affirmation confirming that Craigslist acquires an exclusive license to all ads submitted. The TOU do not include such a statement. Craigslist brought suit against 3Taps Inc., Padmapper, Inc., Discover Home Network, Inc. d/b/a Lovely, and Brian R. Niessen, a representative of 3Taps Inc. (collectively “the aggregators”) for copyright infringement. The defendant companies aggregate and republish ads from Craigslist, which allows third parties to access large amounts of Craigslist content. The aggregators moved to dismiss the copyright infringement claims. It is undisputed that Craigslist is the author of the compilations of advertisements, but Craigslist must also have acquired a sufficient license or ownership interest in order to assert a copyright claim for the compilations. Determining whether there is sufficient license or ownership interest depends upon whether users granted Craigslist an exclusive license to the user-created content because only the owner of an exclusive right under the copyright is entitled to sue for infringement. Transferring an exclusive license requires a writing, and while there are no "magic words" needed, the writing must show the parties' intent to transfer the copyright. Because Craigslist required users to affirm that Craigslist was acquiring an exclusive license to all submitted ads from the period of July 16, 2012 through August 8, 2012, the intent of the parties to grant exclusive licenses was clear, and Craigslist can sue for copyright infringements that occurred during this time. However, because no such agreement is included in the ordinary TOU, Craigslist does not have an exclusive license to the ads outside of the summer 2012 time range, and therefore cannot sue for copyright infringement outside of that time. The defendants' motion to dismiss such claims was GRANTED outside of the Summer 2012 time range.

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