Is Scraping from Craigslist Legal?

Hi Alex, I can't thank you enough for all the amazing courses and videos. As I continue building my listings site from the original Etsy demo course, I am working on implementing scraped-Craigslist listings, but I've read a bit online about 3Taps/PadMapper being sued by Craigslist? If I am running a for-profit marketplace and re-posting scraped Craigslist/Ebay (or any other 3Taps source), am I setting myself up to get sued? I think this is an amazing growth-hacking strategy, which solves the "supply-side" (aka. chicken & egg) problem that all marketplaces face starting out. I know that Airbnb implemented a "Post to Craigslist" integration, but that's actually the reverse. I also wonder if re-posting from CL is a bad idea in terms of not having "quality control" over the new marketplace I'm trying to create. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, even if it's not 'official' legal advice. Thanks again for all your help!

Posted over 5 years ago by Houston
Posted over 5 years ago by Alex Yang

Scraping from Craigslist is in a gray area. I researched the legality of all this a few months ago, and the bottom line is that it should be fine to collect Craigslist data from 3taps, but not from Craigslist directly. With this approach, you won't be violating Craigslist's terms of service and the burden falls on 3taps instead. The 3taps/Padmapper lawsuit is goes into a lot more detail, but I believe it's limited in scope to a one-month period where Craigslist changed its terms to claim total "ownership" over the content that people posted on its site. Due to backlash from users, Craigslist was forced to reinstate its original terms, but 3taps and Padmapper are being sued for that one-month period of time. The argument is over whether a free, publicly accessible site like Craigslist can "own" content users contribute to its site.

I decided to build a tutorial around this use case despite these legality questions because I think it's still a very good example of a real-world API with its own strengths/weaknesses. And for many aspiring marketplace builders (like you!), Craigslist serves as a potential solution to the chicken-and-egg problem.

So my 'unofficial' legal advice is that you should be fine to scrape Craigslist/eBay/etc. Controlling the quality of the Craigslist posts that get reposted on your platform is something that you may want to do from your app though. Using apartment rentals as an example, you could choose not to scrape posts that have no images, no location, or whatever criteria you want. Let me know if you have any other questions.