Zil­low backs down on threat to sue blog­ger over pic­tures

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - MUTUAL FUNDS - MAKEDA EASTER

The real es­tate web­site Zil­low is a place to go to search for a home — and maybe mar­vel at high-end list­ings.

The snarky blog McMan­sion Hell is where In­ter­net surfers can go to ridicule the kinds of homes they’ll never be able to af­ford.

The sites oc­cupy op­po­site ends of the on­line real es­tate world — a re­al­ity that Zil­low sought to end with a cease­and-de­sist let­ter last month.

McMan­sion Hell, run by grad­u­ate stu­dent Kate Wag­ner, pokes fun at ex­or­bi­tant sub­ur­ban eye­sores, often over­lay­ing sar­cas­tic text atop photos of the homes. But some of those photos come from Zil­low, which the Seat­tle-based com­pany claimed was a vi­o­la­tion of its terms of use.

Last month, Zil­low sent Wag­ner a let­ter de­mand­ing she delete any con­tent lifted from Zil­low or face le­gal ac­tion.

Wag­ner — who makes money from the site us­ing Pa­treon, an on­line plat­form where con­tent cre­ators can re­ceive cash from fans — fought back. She took to Twit­ter, where she re­ceived an out­pour­ing of sup­port and back­ing from the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, a non­profit dig­i­tal rights group.

In a let­ter to Zil­low, the group’s staff at­tor­ney Daniel Nazer called the com­pany’s le­gal com­plaints “base­less,” and de­tailed how Wag­ner’s blog falls within fair use — a le­gal doc­trine that of­fers cer­tain pro­tec­tions for crit­i­cism and com­men­tary.

“Our client has no obli­ga­tion to, and thus will not, com­ply with Zil­low’s de­mands. Zil­low’s le­gal threats are not sup­ported and plainly seek to interfere with pro­tected speech,” Nazer wrote.

Nazer also pointed out that Zil­low does not own and can’t as­sert copy­right of the photos. Most of the pic­tures on the site are shot by prop­erty sell­ers or real es­tate pho­tog­ra­phers.

Los An­ge­les real es­tate pho­tog­ra­pher Erik Grammer said he wouldn’t have a prob­lem with Wag­ner us­ing his photos on McMan­sion Hell. “I have no prob­lem with par­ody,” he said. “That’s an im­por­tant part of our cul­ture. If she were sell­ing the pho­to­graphs, I would have an is­sue with it.”

Even­tu­ally, Zil­low an­nounced it was back­ing down.

“We have de­cided not to pur­sue any le­gal ac­tion against Kate Wag­ner and McMan­sion Hell,” Zil­low said in a state­ment. “It was never our in­tent for McMan­sion Hell to shut down, or for this to ap­pear as an at­tack on Kate’s free­dom of ex­pres­sion. We acted out of an abun­dance of cau­tion to pro­tect our part­ners — the agents and bro­kers who en­trust us to dis­play photos of their clients’ homes.”

Wag­ner, how­ever, was still wait­ing for some­thing else from Zil­low — an apol­ogy.

“Also Zil­low owes me an apol­ogy for threat­en­ing to ruin my life,” she tweeted.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.