Craigslist, 3taps, Mashery and API Infrastructure

If you’ve followed the legal dispute between Craigslist and first Padmapper, then 3taps over re-use of their data. you may know that things have taken an even deeper twist. Craigslist has now served a Cease & Desist to Mashery, 3taps API Management service provider. Mashery subsequently dropped support for 3taps.

Whether Mashery did the right thing or not is difficult to judge, but certainly legal action like this puts a company in a very difficult position. As Mashery CEO Oren Michel’s comments – “Copyright is complex and it is very difficult to know who is in the right and who in the wrong”. Furthermore, even if you feel one side is morally in the right, without significant precedent it is hard to predict outcomes of any court action.

We’re also not legal experts and don’t know the rights and wrongs of the case between 3Taps and Craigslist, but one thing is clear – attacking infrastructure providers has a strong chilling effect on freedom to operate. It is akin to asking Google to delist a company from it’s search index because there is ongoing litigation (when no judgement has fallen). Such a behavior in intimidation and bad for everybody in the long run. This is especially true when there is a very clear existing process to pursue claims between the parties (the existing court cases).

No infrastructure provider of any reasonable scale can have full knowledge of all content and services provided by their clients. ISPs for example are protected from such lawsuits for a reason – to ensure broad and free access to technology and distribution. The same should apply API delivery infrastructure:

  • In cases where a court judgement has fallen against a company or individual providing an API, clearly it is likely that an infrastructure would the withdraw service.

  • In cases where no such judgement has fallen, it is counter to freedom of speech and action for an infrastructure provider to be forced to cease service.

Similar issues would befall a whole range of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS offerings and would be extremely damaging.

It may seem that we’re taking this position primarily because we are such a provider ourselves and this is self interest. But this isn’t the reason. In this case, due to our architecture, it’s unlikely we would have been affected in the same way. However we believe that API and other infrastructure should be available to all and should not be subject to chilling legal threats in this manner.