Silenced No More: PadMapper Now “Legally” Circumventing Craigslist's Terms of Use

By Michael Carney , written on July 9, 2012

From The News Desk

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your Terms of Use can go to hell.” This is more or less the message being sent today, with love, from startup PadMapper directly to resident bully Craigslist (CL).

As we've reported previously, CL has been more active than ever in recent months squashing startups that attempt to build innovative products on top of its data. The shutdown of one such startup drew extra ire from users. PadMapper, among the most widely used of the many apartment listing and maps mashups, received a cease and desist letter from CL’s legal goons in mid-July.

In true David versus Goliath fashion, PadMapper is back today. The site is once again including CL apartment listing data, but it is doing it in a way it feels legally circumvents CL’s Terms of Use. In a blog post published by CEO Eric DeMenthon today, he says, “I’ve been wrestling with whether to bring back Craigslist postings in the search results. I’ve found a way to include them that I’m told is legally kosher since it doesn’t touch their servers at all.”

It turns out PadMapper is now licensing data from “the fine folks at 3taps, who provide an API for data about Craigslist postings that they gather via indirect means and thus aren’t subject to CL’s Terms of Use.” In an update to the post, the CEO clarified that “CL’s legal claim was about their TOU, not about copyright.” PadMapper will not repost listings but will instead only summarize bedrooms, bathrooms, and price and link to the original post to read more.

In other words, “Na na boo boo, you can’t get me.”

As DeMenthon sees it, PadMapper is a public service and must live on. “Apartment hunting is an activity which, unless you enjoy it or it teaches you something, adds no value to the world, and should be over as quickly as humanly possible so that you can get back to doing other, more productive things,” he says.

I couldn’t agree more. As I said in my earlier post, it’s not Craigslist’s job to innovate. We as users would like to think they should add new more modern features and offer reasonable data access via platform APIs.

If they decline the opportunity to meet our needs, it is our job as users to vote with our time and with our dollars. If the hundreds of thousands or millions of unhappy Craigslist users want change, we’ll have to demand it by shifting our usage elsewhere. We need startups like PadMapper, HipSwap, Zaarly, Yardsale, Ketup, and others.

With this in mind, I can sure as hell tell you where I’ll be looking for my next apartment.