3 Count: Zillow’s Photos

You've got to admire the audacity...

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1: Zillow is Threatening to Sue a Blogger for Using its Photos for Parody

First off today, Natt Garun at The Verge reports that real estate website Zillow has sent a cease and desist letter to the popular Tumblr blog McMansion Hell resulting in the blog shutting its doors, at least temporarily.

McMansion Hell was a blog that highlighted the absurdities in many real estate listings. It took photographs from such listings and overlaid them with humorous commentary. The blog always cited its sources and posted a statement indicating it felt the use of the images was a fair use. However, Zillow clearly didn’t see it the same way, sending the owner of the site, Johns Hopkins, a cease and desist letter.

According to Zillow, they have an obligation to protect the images they are entrusted with on their site. While Zillow did not claim copyright infringement, the company did say that the site may interfere with their “business expectations and interests”. The site is currently down though Hopkins does hope to revive it soon.

2: Judge Partially Overturns $8.3M Copyright Verdict Against Zillow, Orders New Trial

Next up today, Monica Nickelsbug at Geek Wire reports that the above story may seem especially ironic considering that, also this week, Zillow won another victory in court as a judge halved the damages it would owe after drastically reducing the number of images it infringed.

The case pits Zillow against VHT Inc., which accused the real estate website of infringing some 28,000 of its photos. An earlier jury award found that Zillow had indeed committed copyright infringement and ordered the site to pay some $8.3 million in damages. However, the judge has now reduced that saying that the jury had no reasonable basis to conclude more than 22,000 of those images were infringements but did hold that Zillow had willfully infringed on some 2,700 images.

Because of that the judge reduced the damages from $8.3 million to just over $4 million. The judge also ordered a new trial to show whether Zillow is responsible for indirect copyright infringement over an additional 114 photos.

3: US Court Grants Elsevier Millions in Damages from Sci-Hub

Finally today, Quirin Schiermeer at Nature reports that Elsevier, the largest publisher of scientific journals, has won a $15 million judgment against Sci-Hub, a site that illegally distributes copies of research papers, many published by Elsevier.

For the lawsuit, Elsevier provided the court with a list of 100 articles that it said was made available illegally on Sci-Hub and LibGen, its sister site. The judge had issued a preliminary injunction in October 2015 though that failed to shutter the site.

However, collecting those damages may prove difficult as Sci-Hub is operated out of Russia. This is why the site didn’t close after the injunction and why it’s likely Elsevier will ever see money from the award. That being said, the case was being closely watched by the scientific community, eager to see if the court would grant Elsevier the win or not.


That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.

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