CoStar has filed a lawsuit against Apartment Hunters, Inc., which operates ApartmentHunterz.com and a network of affiliated sites, for copying and republishing apartment listings and copyrighted photographs from CoStar-owned Apartments.com.
As detailed in the complaint, Apartment Hunters impermissibly uses CoStar apartment listings and copyrighted content on its network of at least nine websites, including ApartmentHunterz.com, the majority of which appear to require searchers to pay a monthly fee to search apartment listings. Apartment Hunters and its principals, Kevin Shayan and Steven Shayan, have been repeatedly sanctioned by the California Bureau of Real Estate for flagrant disregard of the law, including most recently for operating without a license (after a prior suspension) and unauthorized and deceptive use of listings copied from real estate websites operated by others. Undeterred, the defendants’ massive piracy scheme has continued.
The complaint asserts that Apartment Hunters, located in Orange County, California, procures a substantial portion of the listings that appear on its network of websites by copying content from other internet listing sites without authorization, including from Apartments.com, then charges renters a fee to access those pirated listings. It is believed that the high volume of copying and frequent refresh rate of ApartmentHunterz.com’s listings is possible only through automated data collection, the details of which are recited in CoStar’s complaint. Despite the punishment handed down by the California Bureau of Real Estate, defendants’ pattern of unauthorized use of content from third party sources continued as it targeted Apartments.com and other rental sites.
The complaint further alleges that Apartment Hunters modified CoStar’s copyright-protected photographs before posting them on their network of websites in hopes of disguising their infringement. The CoStar photographs displayed on defendants’ sites have been cropped or overlaid so as to remove or obscure the CoStar logo, evidencing a willful intent to infringe.
“CoStar is an advocate for competition and innovation in the apartment rentals marketplace,” said Andrew Florance, founder and CEO of CoStar Group. “However, Apartment Hunters does not represent legitimate innovation, nor does it provide a benefit to advertisers or consumers. Apartment Hunters has a long track record of misconduct and disregard for legitimate and lawful competition. It profits from content that is stolen from those who created it through hard work and investment, then charges consumers for access to its stolen listings.”
CoStar is seeking millions of dollars in damages for copyright infringement, misappropriation and unfair competition and a permanent injunction against Apartment Hunters and its principals.