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Copying classifieds listings: copyright violation?

Customers who have posted listings online are finding that their listings are being copied and published on competing sites, reports The Economic Times. Interestingly, it appears that only some sites actually contact the advertiser about republishing the listing on another site, but others don’t.

This raises questions about whether classifieds site can indeed do anything about copying, and, for that matter, who owns the listing: the advertiser or the website that it is listed on. For the website, the quantity of listings is important because they have to initiate a virtuous cycle: more listings means more buyers, and more buyers means more listings. The quality of listings means repeat usage, and hence lower cost of acquisition.

This leads us to an interesting question: Who owns the listings on a classifieds site? Is it the advertiser or the website that it is listed on? Under what circumstances can an external party copy or aggregate listings? We’re reminded of a couple of interesting cases:

– In 2011, Zomato accused Burrp of copying listings, but decided against taking legal action.
– In 2010, Times Jobs filed an FIR against theft of its jobseeker database. I remember a similar incident regarding Naukri.com, but couldn’t find a link.
– In 2006, Naukri.com took Bixee (eventually acquired by MIH India) to court for aggregating their listings, and the Delhi High Court passed a restraining order against deep linking.

Just for fun, we checked some terms and conditions of three open classifieds listing sites:

1. OLX (terms): The person who put up the listing owns the content, but OLX is given non-exclusive rights to use. At the same time, OLX is authorised to prohibit or allow aggregation, copying, duplication, reproduction of the content.

“you retain all of your ownership rights in your Content; however, by submitting the Content to OLX, you hereby grant to OLX an irrevocable, non-cancellable, perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licenseable, transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Website and OLX’s (and its successors’) business, including without limitation for the purpose of promoting and redistributing part or all of the Website and Content therein (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels now or hereafter known.”…”Furthermore, by you posting Content to any public area of the Service, you agree to and do hereby grant to OLX all rights necessary to prohibit or allow any subsequent aggregation, display, copying, duplication, reproduction, or exploitation of the Content on the Service or Website by any party for any purpose.” You also hereby grant each user of the Website a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Website. The foregoing license to each user granted by you terminates once you remove or delete such Content from the Website.

2. Quikr (terms): Quikr only gets non-exclusive rights which are irrevocable. Quikr makes no mention of preventing aggregation and copying, but the terms applicable to all users include that they agree not to copy, modify or distribute content.

The Site contains content which includes Your Information, Quikr’s information and information from other users. You agree not to copy, modify, or distribute such content (other than Your Information), Quikr’s copyrights or trademarks. When you give us any content as part of Your Information, you are granting us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce, , publish, translate, distribute, perform and display such content (in whole or part) worldwide through the Site as well as on any of our affiliates or partners websites, publications and mobile platform. We need these rights with respect to the content in Your Information in order to host and display your content.

3. Click.in (terms): has rights to “Use, copy, distribute, transmit, or translate” content, and they “reserve the rights to display the classifieds/events on our partner sites.” No information on preventing aggregation, but users of Click.in are also bound by the terms and conditions of OneIndia, wherein, for user generated content, 

The User shall be responsible and liable for the Content posted/created by him/her on our website(s) and/or mobile application(s).

The Service may include the capability to make comments, bulletin boards, discussion groups and other areas or features that allow feedback, comments and input of Content by you. While Greynium does not control the Content posted on social forums by the User, it reserves the right (which it may exercise at its sole discretion without notice) to delete, move or edit the messages, comments, etc. and to terminate User’s/s’ access to and use of the Services.

Greynium reserves the right to delete, move, or edit the messages, comments, submissions, Content that it, in its sole discretion, deems abusive, defamatory, obscene, in violation of copyright or trademark laws or any other applicable laws, or otherwise unacceptable.

By submitting Content on any of the aforementioned forums, Users agree to indemnify and hold harmless Greynium from all claims, costs and expenses (including legal expenses) arising out of any liability due to Content posted by the User.

By submitting Content on the website(s) and/or mobile application(s), the User is granting Greynium a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty free non-exclusive licence to reproduce, modify, translate, make available, distribute and sub-license the Content in whole or in part, and in any form. This may include personal information such as the User’s/s’ user or pen name and expressions of opinion.

Well, it’s nice to see they aren’t copying terms and conditions from each other.

So, typically, the copyright of a listing belongs to the person who posts it, but non-exclusive rights are granted to website. They can prevent an aggregator from aggregating listings, if it chooses to do so in its terms and conditions. This also means a user can allow others to copy it, if they seek permission.

So, we don’t know where Indeed.com got a job listing we (MediaNama) posted (we’re stilling hiring for this position), but the least that they could have done is sought permission.

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