Fight Over Real Estate Listings Escalates As NeighborCity Counters Copyright Claims With Antitrust Accusations

from the fight-picks-up dept

Back in May we wrote about how some multiple-listing services (MLSs), at the apparent behest of some annoyed real estate agents, were suing the website NeighborCity (technically its parent company American Home Realty Network (AHRN)), claiming copyright infringement. As we noted at the time, the copyright claims seemed somewhat dubious, as one of the MLSs, Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS), appeared to mostly be claiming copyright over factual information. There were a few other problems with the lawsuit as well. But, the real issue was that it seemed quite clear that the lawsuit had little to do with copyright at all, but was about real estate agents not liking the fact that NeighborCity had started rating real estate agents. AHRN claimed that it suddenly started getting complaints and threat letters (many of which were very similar) right after the National Association of Realtors' annual meeting in November 2011. There was also an email accidentally sent to AHRN's CEO, by one of the execs from an MLS that filed the lawsuit, which basically admitted they wanted to bring a "world of hurt" to the company. Of course, making the matter even more complex, is that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) got in trouble for antitrust violations a few years ago.

Given all that, it's not surprising to see that in AHRN's latest response to the original lawsuits, it's filed counterclaims arguing that the actions are antitrust violations. The fact that NAR offered to cover the legal expenses for the MLSs only makes the situation look worse for NAR -- and advances the suggestion that this is really about realtors being pissed off that someone is holding them accountable. NeighborCity highlights that soon after the original lawsuits were filed, NAR approved $161,667 in legal fees for these kinds of legal efforts, despite it not actually being a part of the lawsuit.
Defendants’ coordinated: (a) cease and desist letters to AHRN, (b) refusals to deal letters to AHRN; (c) repudiation letters to AHRN, (3) sham lawsuits against AHRN and (d) agreement or offer to pay for or contribute to the costs of litigation against AHRN by MLSs and real estate brokers, was intended to and did have anti-competitive effects on AHRN in the market for real estate brokerage services. Anti-competitive effects include the elimination of price competition and price maintenance on brokerage services above market levels nationwide, impeding and blocking market entry by AHRN and other
We're quite used to seeing legacy players in an industry fight innovation and upstart competitors who change the nature of a market, but it's rare to see cases where it seems so incredibly blatant that they're doing this just because they don't like the service in question, rather than via any sort of legitimate copyright claim.

Filed Under: antitrust, copyright, mls
Companies: mris, nar, neighborcity

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  1. icon
    The Amazing Sammy (profile), 11 Oct 2012 @ 3:45pm

    I HATE working with MLS services and RETS systems. They suck so bad. Interfacing with them is pure hell. Working with the people that manage them is worse.

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