Technology

Zillow and VHT gear up for trial over sold-listing photos

Top executives to testify
  • VHT filed a copyright infringement suit against Zillow Group in July 2015, alleging that Zillow had illegally used VHT’s photos on Zillow Digs for its own profit and gain.
  • The real estate tech giant and photography firm will argue the case in a jury trial starting Jan. 23.
  • VHT has not named any brokers or MLSs as defendants in this case, but that's not to say that they should consider themselves off the hook in the future.
  • The list of possible witnesses for both sides contains an array of familiar real estate industry names.

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What happens to listing photos displayed on third-party websites after a property sells? Real estate photography company VHT Inc. and real estate technology and media giant Zillow Group are set to square off on that question at a Seattle jury trial starting Jan. 23. VHT filed a federal copyright infringement suit against Zillow Group and its Zillow Inc. subsidiary in July 2015. The photography company alleges Zillow has been stealing tens of thousands of VHT’s photos and illegally using them on site sections devoted to recently sold homes and to home improvement. Zillow obtains listing photos mainly from brokers and MLSs that send data feeds to the site. The outcome of the lawsuit hinges on whether Zillow's use of those images after a property sells violates copyright law. If brokers or MLSs try to give Zillow additional photo rights than those provided by the owner, could they be at risk of litigation? VHT has not named any such parties as defendants in this case, but...