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What are the legal things do I need to know to create a classified online as craglist?

Grand Rapids, MI |

I would like to create a classifieds to let people publish their stuff to sell, and i want to make or post affiliate links on it.

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Attorney answers 4


This is a legal Q&A site, not a business advice site. You need to do some research and general background reading in starting a business. NOLO Publishing has some good DIY startup guide, but they're legal, and you need need business information.

I'll address the most obvious legal aspects of your query. I assume you mean "Craigslist," not "Craglist." You should assume that Craigslist has registered copyrights on their webpages, and even if they haven't registered their pages, you can't infringe on Craigslist's copyright on their site. That means that the "look and feel" of your website site can't be "substantially similar" to the look and feel and feel and their site's pages.

You also can't infringe on Craigslist's trademark/servicemark rights by branding your site something confusingly similar to theirs, such as "Craglist," which even you have already confused.

Once you've done some background reading and you're ready to get serious about launching a business, then see a business lawyer for help. There are many legal issues you should address, such as website disclosures, disclaimers, and terms of use, and privacy and other policies. There are also website design and employee contracts, IP acquisition and protection, etc. etc.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


In addition to the trademark and copyright law issues raised by my colleague, you may face significant patent law issues in connection with operation of this web-site. Further, publishing classified advertisements is an inherently risky business unless you lay the proper legal foundation, including terms of use that immunize you from liability for ads that sell products and services that are defective in some way. You are going into the publishing business, and you will face literally hundreds of intellectual property and other legal issues---and you will face new issues almost every day. Craigslist, Backpage (village voice) and similar web-sites have teams of in-house lawyers who do nothing other than deal with the IP and other legal issues that they face daily. Further, these web-sites have relationships with outside law firms in numerous cities-----the law applicable to these web-sites varies from one state to another. Operating a web-site such as this requires intensive, ongoing legal analysis and legal representation----indeed, the main business issues that you will face are legal in nature. Thus,. if you are serious about pursuing this, your first step is to retain legal counsel----there are no cheap shortcuts here.

Konrad V. Sherinian

Konrad V. Sherinian


In addition to everything that attorneys Koslyn and Ross have articulated, it seems that if you collect information you will need a privacy policy. In particular, it is foreseeable that you will have children peruse the advertisements and perhaps make purchases - COPPA requires any such site to post a compliant privacy policy. Also, the FTC has propagated privacy guidelines.


As Ms. Koslyn indicated, if you are going to start an internet business, it would help you to read some books on the subject (see link below). Once you have a bit more knowledge under your belt, you will want to engage an intellectual property attorney in your area who has experience helping people to start internet businesses.

Good luck to you!

Any answer or other information posted above is general in nature and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the posting attorney, and you are urged to engage a qualified attorney who is licensed to practice in the relevant jurisdiction.


There are 3 legal things to do right away:
1. get a lawyer
2. get a lawyer experienced in internet law.
3. get a lawyer experienced in Internet law, business law and intellectual property law.

Don't try to cut corners on the legal aspects of this. The Internet is much like the Wild West and you need a sheriff to help steer you straight so your business does not wash down the grand rapids of legal white water.

You received some great general advice, but really you need to see an attorney specializing in Internet startups to outfit you properly for the rough waters ahead in doing an Internet startup. There are millions of such startups and most go bust either from lack of funds, lack of originality, lack of customer or lack of legal advice. Be sure you have all four of those areas covered BEFORE you launch.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.