The company says concerns about the extent of the license are unfounded.
Correction: This article previously incorrectly stated that the ecosystem would be public, which is not the case. Our article also did not specify that Matterport says residents will be required to authorize any third-party sharing. We have since updated the story and regret the errors. We’ve also updated the story to include additional comments from broker George Kenner regarding his reassurance about the new terms of service as of Friday evening.
Imaging company Matterport has updated its terms-of-service to allow it to privately share 3D models of properties captured on its cameras with other companies–such as insurance firms–a change it thinks its customers should find useful. Some real estate agents expressed concern the change gives Matterport too broad of a license, and could result in problems for them and their clients. Matterport says those concerns are unfounded.
On Feb. 21, Matterport sent out an email newsletter notifying users that it had changed the terms of service for its cameras. The specialized cameras, which sell at a starting point of $2,500, are regularly used by real estate agents to create immersive 3-D property tours that accompany listings for sale or rent and are published online.
The former terms of service granted to Matterport a non-exclusive license of customers’ photography in its own website, product development, on the Matterport cloud, and other-user directed access (such as listings). The license was expanded to give Matterport the ability to grant subsequent property owners and residents private access to Matterport’s 3D-models of their home. It also would allow Matterport to pass on the 3D-models to other websites and services, but only when authorized and directed by the current homeowner/resident.
Bill Brown, Matterport CEO, told Inman that the changes were done so that Matterport can create a private “ecosystem” of 3-D property tours that current property residents could choose to share with third parties, including everything from real estate agents to homeowners or renters’ insurance. This ecosystem is not yet up and running, but Matterport plans to make it available this year.
The goal is to take Matterport’s 3D tours beyond listings, and use them for associated services that homeowners or renters seek out. Residents can also “opt-out” of sharing their listings with any third party, and still publish Matterport’s 3-D models in listings without issue.
Brown said that the way the new system will work is that an agent or photographer who captures photography of a property using a Matterport camera still retains copyright. However, Matterport’s new license now allows the company to store the model indefinitely and share it with other companies or individuals–but Matterport says this will only occur with authorization from the current resident of the home.
Brown said this would be enforced by a pop-up box that would appear on any website where someone had elected to share a Matterport model with a third party beyond the original listing in which it first appeared. The pop-up box would ask the user to enter information verifying they are the current legal resident of the home. It would also allow users to opt-out of sharing their Matterport 3D home tour with other services.
“Matterport continues to make this system available and add features to it and improve it to their benefit,” said Brown in an interview with Inman, adding that unlike in artistic photography, Matterport’s cameras rely on highly automated technology that captures every detail of a property. “In return, these terms of service changes are [giving Matterport] a very limited license for this specific use.”
Brown told Inman this would make Matterport 3D tours useful not only to home sellers, but also to buyers and future residents who may wish to access the tour captured on behalf of a previous owner. He also conceded Matterport can also profit off of the tours, though the company plans to “share,” rather than sell, the tours “on behalf of property owners and residents.”
“There’s art on both sides of this equation,” he said. “All the reconstruction is done through the system that we literally spent tens of millions of dollars to build.” The CEO further noted that in additon to the altered terms of service, Matterport was now adjusting its pricing so that 3D models stored on its servers for longer than 1 year would no longer count toward the numbers it uses to charge users (100 “spaces” for $49 a month at its entry tier). That is, every model stored for longer than 1 year is now free.
Several people emailed Inman to express concerns about the email Matterport sent announcing the changes, and what it would mean for Matterport customers’ photography.
George Kenner, a longtime broker and recipient of the California Association of Realtors’ “Champion of Home Award” in 2013, went back and forth over his reaction to the terms. Initially, he said he was shocked when he logged into his Matterport user account and found a pop-up telling him that the terms of service had changed.
“From my view, that’s not a terms of service agreement, it’s a terms of ownership agreement,” said Kenner, who was worried at first that even accessing his account further would be an agreement to the updated terms.
Kenner, who worked as a federal agent before switching into real estate, said he believed the new terms of service run into both copyright and privacy problems. Such terms, he said, would allow the company to sell confidential footage he created to an external property or rental listing site.
“Don’t I have a duty to protect the privacy of the buyer?” he asked.
But after this story was published on Friday, Kenner emailed Inman to say he had spoken to Matterport CEO Bill Brown and was reassured by the “opt-out” capabilities of Matterports ecosystem. “I am going to do all I can to share with my peers (Realtors) that I no longer have the privacy concerns that we discussed,” he told Inman in an email.
While Matterport confirmed that it gives property owners the chance to opt out of sharing 3-D footage of their homes, under the new terms of service, creators agree to sharing the work by virtue of using the cameras–a move that, for some, does not go far enough to protect privacy.
Isabel Wang, a Seattle-based broker and Realtor who filmed footage of her own house with a Matterport camera, worried that the new terms of service would mean there is would be a public 3-D layout of her home. Matterport emphasized the only person who will have access is the homeowner, and in a private and authenticated way.
“If someone obtains unauthorized access through Matterport’s negligence, he may accuse me, as well as the listing agent, of not disclosing this risk,” Wang said.
Note: this story was updated with additional reporting on Monday, February 26.