Zillow's key victory in copyright battle with VHT

March 19, 2019
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Zillow has won over a good portion of the federal appears court, ruling in favor of the property portal in the copyright battle its been locked in with real estate photography company VHT Inc. over how property photos should be used on the internet.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Seattle real estate powerhouse did not willfully infringe on copyrights for thousands of real estate photos for its home improvement section, now known as Zillow Porchlight. The decision continues a stark turnaround in the case from when Zillow lost a jury trial in 2017 and was ordered to pay $8.3 million in damages to VHT.

“We are pleased with the results of this appeal,” Zillow said in a statement. “We take copyright protection and enforcement seriously and will continue to respect copyright permissions across our platforms.”

Zillow is still on the hook for copyright infringement damages on thousands of other photos, but the amount is in flux and will be decided at a later date. The appeals court sided with VHT when it maintained a prior ruling that several thousand tagged, searchable photos displayed on Zillow did not constitute a “fair use.”

VHT declined to comment on the appeals ruling.

VHT, which provides photography and image management services, originally filed its complaint in July 2015, claiming that photos displayed or saved to the website then known as Zillow Digs violated the company’s copyrights. A jury in U.S. District Court in Seattle in February 2017 supported VHT’s allegations that Zillow violated copyrights of 28,000 photos.

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March 19, 2019

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