Sunday, March 16, 2008

Separate and unequal

This will piss off newspapers: Craigslist gets a pass on having to police its housing ads for discrimination as a federal appeals court affirms a lower-court ruling.

So with real estate classifieds tanking anyhow, how long before papers go the free route, claim the same exemption, and try to make their money by selling ancillaries against the free ads?

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At 3/16/08, 11:35 AM, Blogger Howard Owens said...

Actually, some newspapers and their lawyers are applauding because this should end ongoing frivolous lawsuits against newspapers for housing ads.

Some advocacy groups, looking for easy publicity and quick settlements have been targeting newspapers.

Also, newspapers need the kind of protections that allow online freedoms if we're to compete on equal footing with the likes of craigslist.

This is a good thing.

At 3/16/08, 12:37 PM, Blogger Doug said...

It's a potentially good thing. Thus my question (challenge, really) to papers wondering how much more it will take them to go free classifieds and rethink their business model to take advantage of this.

As I read it, newspapers are still potentially on the hook given their current model. I'm not sure it will be easy for papers to argue they are just ISPs in print or on the Web as they do things now.

I actually think this could lead to more challenges against newspapers, since they will now be the only deep pockets in town.

And keep your eye on Congress. I would not at all be surprised to see these groups, who have powerful allies, try to amend the law to bring Craigslist et al. into the fold. For now, from their point of view, the court has blown a huge hole in not only housing discrimination laws but potentially in similar laws as well.

Yes, you can still sue the perpetrator, but the whole idea behind the housing ad laws was the result of the difficulty of bringing numerous such tort actions against many small landlords. Instead, you cut it off at the root, in this case the communication.

It's the same conundrum with Sec. 230 and a lot of the Internet -- yeah, I can sue the suckers, but the court system is not equipped to provide me with speedy, cost-effective justice at that level.

(Thus my suggestion, made previously here, that it may be time to consider a nationwide Inetrnet small claims court that, for starters, does away with the jurisdictional issues that can make it prohibitive to bring an action.)


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