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Legal Buzz over Craigslist Posting Tools

Legal Buzz over Craigslist Posting Tools

In case recent changes to Craigslist’s posting policy weren’t enough, a sudden tweak to it’s terms of use has put the industry on high-alert over the legality of posting tools. Craigslist added breakdown of monetary penalties against violators escalating to as much as $25k, which would be a serious problem for operators if this applied to all Craigslist posting tools. But it doesn’t.

These Usage Restrictions Aren’t New

This right here isn’t new:

USE. You agree not to use or provide software (except for general purpose web browsers and email clients, or software expressly licensed by us) or services that interact or interoperate with CL, e.g. for downloading, uploading, posting, flagging, emailing, search, or mobile use.

That’s been in Craigslist’s terms of use for years now. The only change is that they’ve included a “reasonable estimate of damages” for violators of their existing usage restrictions that were already in place.

Not All Craigslist Tools are Forbidden

Posting tools that have always been in compliance are still in compliance. Craigslist bars the use of tools which download, upload, email, and post automatically to their site. The bulk posting tools in our industry don’t do that. They simply provide a content library for companies to then manually place listings. It’s when your software is automatically posting Craigslist ads in your name that you should probably be concerned.

What Do Allowed Craigslist Tools Provide?

With html, hyperlinks, and view-tracking thrown out, we’ve got some serious “make or break” questions on the value of posting tools. They don’t have the same html templates or nifty analytics they once had. But we see providers responding in full-force with a mix of (totally legal) features and benefits still available:

 

- Content Curation: Pulling the latest property information and media, posting tools help ensure ads feature current, approved pricing, content and images.

 

- Systematic Documentation: Posting tools give companies a centralized system for monitoring progress and performance of ad posting across the entire portfolio.

 

- Lead Tracking: To help provide that crucial reporting element, posting tools can facilitate some awesome workarounds with call tracking and url shortening features.


It’s great that multifamily companies are investigating and examining the real benefit of their software; but for a large portion of Craigslist users, fears over the legality of posting tools are simply false.

 
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Inherently, I do see the value behind them. As content curation systems they are excellent and they really help us make sure that everyone is posting when they should be.

Using a posting tool, in my opinion, is a company decision but there is a risk to using them. CL states, as you said, "Interact or interoperate". What does that mean? That's so vague. Could you not make the case that dragging or copying information from a posting tool to CL is an interaction? I'm not well versed legally to answer that completely...

The real point, I think, is if CL wasn't against posting tools, you wouldn't have seen the very Craigslist blocking issues that PS and other posting tools have suffered through over recent months. If posting tools were compliant, as you say, why block them at all? Why change your legal mumbo jumbo? Something to think about I guess...

  Bill Szczytko
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I think it's important to keep in mind that Craigslist is (and will always be) a small, tightly held corporation (only 30-40 employees). I just don't see them suddenly going after individual properties for use of Content Management Software (CMS) they may use to manage their postings. They have, however, gone after the creators of the software that is clearly out of bounds.

What remains the same with CL is the fact that if you are a good community member (you don't over post, you keep your ads current, you mix up your content so you don't spam the site) will not have any issues and you will enjoy the steady stream of rental traffic the site can bring. Happy to discuss more with anyone if they have other issues/concerns.

  John Stepleton

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