The following article is by Garry Marr from the Edmonton Journal.
Century 21 Canada has won a lawsuit stopping online real estate information provider Zoocasa, a Rogers subsidiary, from using its data.
The real estate company had sued Zoocasa, accusing it of “scraping” information off the Century 21 site and posting it on Zoocasa’s own site.
“What we wanted all along was to prevent Zoocasa and others like them from scraping data from others’ websites,” says Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21.
While Rogers stopped the practice in 2010, “there are some broader legal implications in the decision which we are reviewing in more detail,” said spokeswoman Patricia Trott.
Access to data is an ongoing issue with the real estate industry, which finally allowed consumers more choice on the Multiple Listing Service – owned by the Canadian Real Estate Association and responsible for about 90 per cent of all transactions – after a long battle with the Competition Bureau.
The bureau is still suing the Toronto Real Estate Board over “denying consumer choice,” which includes stopping real estate agents from giving customers full access to the MLS database. TREB is setting up what it calls virtual offices, password-protected sites to access the MLS.
What continues to be undefined is who actually owns the data, says Lawrence Dale of Toronto-based Realtysellers, who has been squaring off against the industry for years.
“(The Zoocasa ruling) doesn’t change anything,” says Dale, adding that courts have never been asked to rule on data ownership. “This just says Rogers doesn’t have a right to take the data and use it.”
Meanwhile, Century 21, Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada and Royal LePage Residential Services continue to talk about developing a way to share their data.
“We are waiting for the software to be available for CREA to (allow it). We are ready to go if they turn the switch and say we can get the data,” says Lawby, “I hope this comes quicker than later.”
He says there are some who think the industry should shut down the entire MLS in response to the battle but he doesn’t think it will happen.
“It doesn’t have traction,” says Lawby, adding the decision banning the “scraping” of data could make it easier for the larger real estate companies to share their data and back away from the MLS.