Should Web Giants Let Startups Use the Information They Have About You?

Should Web Giants Let Startups Use the Information They Have About You?

By Josh McHugh 
/ Wired
12.20.07 | 6:00 PM

Just after 10 am on June 7, 2007, Ryan Sit glanced at
his Gmail inbox and saw the message he had been waiting nine months to
receive. Sit, a 29-year-old software developer from San Diego, is the
founder of Listpic, a site that used bots — automatic software-based
agents — to pull images from craigslist for-sale listings and
reorganize them into an easier-to-navigate, more attractive format.
Instead of tediously clicking individual links to view photos, Listpic
users could see them all collected onto a single page. The service was
an instant success, and by early June it was pulling in more than
43,000 visitors a day and thousands of dollars a month in Google
AdSense revenue.

Sit had long dared to hope that Listpic’s success might prompt
craigslist to commend him, initiate a partnership, or even buy Listpic
and bring him aboard. So when he saw the message from craigslist CEO
Jim Buckmaster in his inbox, he thought that his dreams were about to
be realized.

Then he read the subject line: "Cease and desist."

Instead of praising Sit, Buckmaster’s email charged him with violating
craigslist’s terms of use, claiming that Listpic crossed the line
between homage and copyright infringement. The missive demanded he stop
displaying craigslist content. It closed with a terse "Please let us
know of your plans for complying.

"Sit didn’t have much of a chance to respond. Two hours after
receiving the message, Sit went to Listpic and found that none of the
images on his homepage were loading. When he clicked on one of the
links that was supposed to lead to a specific listing, he was
redirected to craigslist’s main page. Sit’s bots had been crippled.
"They didn’t even talk to me about trying to work something out," he
says. "They just banned me.

Continue at >Wired

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