Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Craigslist & the Communications Decency Act

Craig Newmark, chairman and founder of Craigslist.orgThe well-known web site, Craigslist, was involved in a recent lawsuit involving the Communications Decency Act ("CDA"). This case is of particular interest to Internet marketers and goes by the formal case name of Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, Inc v. Craigslist, Inc.

In this case, which was heard in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the Court basically held that the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") immunizes the defendant, Craigslist, Inc. ("Craigslist") from liability for publishing housing ads authored by third parties that allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c) ("FHA").


So, what does this case mean for U.S. Internet marketers? Basically, what this ruling means is that, if you display ads on your web site, provided those ads were authored by someone else, you cannot be liable for displaying those ads on your site even if they are illegal and you would be liable had you authored them yourself.

Proviso: This case was heard in a local federal court, so the law may be different outside of the Northern District of Illinois but if other jurisdictions rule differently on this issue, the issue could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

For a fuller discussion of this case, and a related case also involving the CDA, read this post.

What is Craigslist? Craigslist is "a web site that publishes local classified ads and forums for 450 cities worldwide" and is, at the time of writing, the 33rd most popular web site on the Internet, according to Craigslist also disproves the theory that you need a sexy design in order to have a successful web site!


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