Earlier this week, the real estate site Zillow sent a cease-and-desist letter to the writer behind McMansion Hell, a blog that makes fun of ugly suburban houses. McMansion Hellâ€™s creator, Kate Wagner, uses Zillow photos in her postsâ€”which Zillow claims is a violation of their terms of service. However, Wagnerâ€™s lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation say that her blog is a â€œclassic example of fair useâ€ and that Zillow needs to back off.
In a lengthy letter to Zillow, the EFF said Zillow has no legal standing to threaten McMansion Hell. â€œOur client has no obligation to, and thus will not, comply with Zillowâ€™s demands. Zillowâ€™s legal threats are not supported and plainly seek to interfere with protected speech,â€ wrote Daniel Nazer, a staff attorney and Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents at the EFF.
Wagner, who launched the site in July 2016, adds commentary to promotional shots of tacky homes. A garage becomes â€œye olde carhole;â€ a tub is simply â€œyouâ€ while a shower gets labeled â€œthe plumbing fixture she tells you not to worry about.â€ After receiving the cease-and-desist, Wagner told the Verge that she would have to shut down her blogâ€”which is her primary source of incomeâ€”if Zillow pursued the issue.
EFF says that Wagnerâ€™s blog is protected under the Consumer Review Fairness Act, a law passed by Congress last year that blocks companies from forbidding reviews as part of their terms of service.
Zillow claims that, in addition to violating its terms of service, Wagner may also be violating copyright law and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial anti-hacking statute.
Legal experts told Jezebel that Zillow isnâ€™t likely to succeed on those claims, eitherâ€”after all, Zillow doesnâ€™t hold the copyright to most of the images it posts. EFF echoed the sentiment, saying Zillowâ€™s letter to Wagner is filled with â€œhighly dubious legal claims.â€
Zillow told Jezebel that itâ€™s required to protect the copyright of the photographers who provide images. â€œZillow has a legal obligation to honor the agreements we make with our listing providers about how photos can be used. We are asking this blogger to take down the photos that are protected by copyright rules, but we did not demand she shut down her blog and hope she can find a way to continue her work,â€ a Zillow spokesperson told Jezebel.
Wagner took her blog offline when she received the cease-and-desist letter but sheâ€™s officially relaunching it today.
â€œIt does appear to be standing by its demand that she remove all images sourced from Zillowâ€™s website. Zillow has no basis for such a demand and our client will not be removing any previous posts,â€ Nazer wrote in a post on EFFâ€™s site. However, Nazer said that Wagner would not use pictures from Zillow in the future.
If Zillow wants to pursue its case, the company would have to sue Wagner. â€œThe letter was foolish enough. Filing suit would be the height of foolishness. We hope they see sense,â€ Nazer told Gizmodo.
from Gizmodo http://ift.tt/2tr9JFM