Canadian Real Estate Site Wants To Remain Unusable; Threatens Those Who Improve It

from the this-again? dept

In the past, we've written about various organizations who break out the lawyers immediately when someone else makes their own poorly designed sites work better. This has happened with sites like the Ellis Island site and a movie theater chain in the UK. In both cases, some folks who got fed up with the poorly designed official site stepped up and created a better interface to the data hidden within. That same situation appears to be happening in Canada. Joe writes in to let us know that the Multiple Listing Service in Canada (which is basically the core database listing homes for sale) has a poorly designed website. Some enterprising individuals in Toronto made a much nicer interface, creating a mashup that pulled in other data (such as Google maps info). Rather than, say, recognize how useful the better interface was and talk to the developers about how MLS could use that work themselves, it sent a cease and desist, forcing the site to shut down. The site's creators were doing this as a hobby to improve the usefulness of MLS's data. And now it's gone. That's no way to run a business.
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Filed Under: canada, cease and desist, interface, mls
Companies: multiple listing service


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 20 Jun 2008 @ 12:21pm

    What basis?

    What basis did they have for the C&D? The article implies that the site was only linking or embedding the MLS data, not actually making their own copies of it, so there was obviously no copyright infringement. Patent and trade secrecy seem inapplicable. That appears to leave trademark infringement, for which changing the marks or clarifying that they're not endorsed by MLS seems sufficient remedy without having to shut down.

    If the C&D was an essentially empty threat, but it would have been expensive for the small independent site to fight and win a subsequent lawsuit, then chillingeffects.org ought to be interested in this incident as another abuse of the legal process to get results that aren't within what the law intends to enable.

    There's also the little matter that, if they were claiming copyright, you cannot copyright mere facts, or compilations of same that have no originality in them. Databases tend to be exactly that -- any suggestion that one could copyright the fact that the house at 853 XYZ street is for sale, for instance, seems ludicrous on its face.

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