Zillow Only Kinda Backs Down From Dubious McMansion Hell Threats Following EFF's Engagement

from the it's-like-zillow-for-sorry dept

The saga of Zillow’s totally bullshit legal threat has lasted all of three days. Following a terrible (and still wrong) attempt at damage control, Zillow has sent a note to all the reporters who have covered the story to say that it won’t be taking legal action:

We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell. We?ve had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won?t use photos from Zillow moving forward.

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.

Even this response is bullshit. Note, first of all, there still isn’t any apology there. Second, notice that they’re still prattling on about how the action was justified and are also happy that McMansion Hell won’t be using images from Zillow, even though the site and its founder, Kate Wagner absolutely could do so if doing so meets the standards of fair use (which all of the examples I’ve seen on the site so far almost certainly do). Third, “decided not to pursue legal action against Kate Wagner.” Well, no fucking duh. This is because any lawyer with an ounce of knowledge on these topics has already explained that you have no actual legal claim here at all. Fourth, this was not done “out of an abundance of caution” or “to protect” your partners. It appears to have been done in a fit of anxious cluelessness, in a manner that made Zillow look terrible and petty — not to mention clueless on the law.

Still, good on EFF for getting involved and helping out. EFF has a blog post about this issue and has posted the incredibly thorough debunking letter it sent Zillow, explaining how Zillow has literally no legal leg to stand on. And it also makes quite clear that Wagner has every right to continue to use images from Zillow — but that she is choosing not to do so going forward (it’s a little unclear if she intends to replace older images sourced from Zillow).

Either way, Zillow still comes out of this looking like shit. The fact that it never apologized and still seems to think that the legal notice was the right thing to do (not to mention that it’s still focused on whether or not Wagner will make use of these images) suggests that Zillow has not even remotely learned a lesson here. This does not speak well of Zillow as a company.

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Companies: eff, mcmansion hell, zillow

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Comments on “Zillow Only Kinda Backs Down From Dubious McMansion Hell Threats Following EFF's Engagement”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

At first I thought the legal thuggery had won, but tweeted with McMansion Hell and she is just going to take her ball and move onto other sites for inspiration.

I suggested licensing a badge that said Reviewed on McMansion Hell.

At the end of one of the other posts someone pointed out that Zillow got screwed by copyright because they were using imagines licensed for Zillow for their other online offering.



83 Million might make your butt pucker if that other group complained about McMansion Hell and demanded you stop them. Even if you don’t have a leg to stand on.

They still should get a better lawyer & VP to deal with these things like actual adults rather than pretend you have a legal leg to stand on. One almost wished they would have sued, it woudl be neat to see an anti-slapp response & demand for costs as the prevailing party in a copyright case.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hello I am Dewey, of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe.
We represent the Olympics ™ (r) in online posting.
You posted without obtaining the permission to reference the Olympics ™ (r) online and with out properly capitalization of Olympics ™ (r), you also omitted the ™ and (r) marks.

Unless you want to be taken to court by the Olympics ™ (r), you will need to forward $50,000 by moneypak to an address in Nigeria.

Anonymous Coward says:

My prediction yesterday that you'd end up wrong came true already! -- You say Zillow pulled back but "McMansion" is NOT free to use those images, now is it?

How DO you be wrong EVERY case? Uncanny. You could flip FOUR coins for all heads, and be right more often!

Oh, sure, this isn’t hung-and-cured as we say down to the smokehouse ever evenin’ at dusk ‘septin Sundees when we put away our tools and head wearily toward our hovels for a plate a cold beans, stoppin’ at the pump fer a quick wash of our callused hands, but just look at the bare FACTS.

I read every word where you insist IS fair use. I agree up to a point and stated that I was not sure. — I do tend to believe “Zillow” in second day statement of never intending the site close.

But IN FACT “McMansion” HAS QUIT, leaving you low and wet rather than high and dry.

Sure proves that you’re a vaguely idealistic academic and know little about messy actualities. This piece, though, looks like moping that promising series of rants abruptly fizzled, and you must find another.

Zillow got what it wanted and you’re wrong is bottom line. (At least it is now that I moved it to here.)

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: My prediction yesterday that you'd end up wrong came true already! -- You say Zillow pulled back but "McMansion" is NOT free to use those images, now is it?

The site is back up. All of the posts that used pics from Zillow are still on the blog. You have embarassed yourself and dishonored yourself, your family, and your cow.

How does it feel to be this completely wrong?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: My prediction yesterday that you'd end up wrong came true already! -- You say Zillow pulled back but "McMansion" is NOT free to use those images, now is it?

  1. She did not remove the old Zillow images.

    2. She notes that no longer using Zillow is not a concession, it’s because she no longer wants to use Zillow since they’re such assholes. https://twitter.com/mcmansionhell/status/880571208969932800

    3. The fair use analysis still stands.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: My prediction yesterday that you'd end up wrong came true already! -- You say Zillow pulled back but "McMansion" is NOT free to use those images, now is it?

  1. The site is now a single page promoting the EFF

    2. It’s not a concession, it’s good sense from someone who likely agreed to this to avoid future troubles

    3. Fair use is still an affirmative defense, and Zillow would be well within their rights to ask a judge to rule. Outside of pure mainstream media and education, there are few “clear” fair use rights that are truly “clear”. Your analysis is good and would likely reflect the court’s line of thought.

    4 . I think Ninja just called you an asshole by accident.

Someone says:


So she will just go to one of he many MLS sites and get the pictures that Zillow was taking from those sites. A tad more work, but in the end the exact same content.

So McMansion Hell has not quit. Just quit using Zillow for source pictures.

And when some MLS site bitches the same fair use and the fact that don’t own the copyright will also shut them up.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m a programmer, and Zillow is free to re-breathe any oxygen molecules previously used by me; also to to use photons for thermodynamic and/or sensory purposes without regard to whether I have previously come into contact with them.

Of course, they’ll need to sign a click-to-agree license that I’ll post somewhere-or-other….

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