Photograph copyright suit against CoreLogic dismissed

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A U.S. court dismissed a photograph copyright suit filed against CoreLogic, in a decision that might inform future interactions between media professionals and the real estate industry.
The lawsuit, which alleged that CoreLogic removed copyright indicators and other identifying metadata (e.g. the photographer’s name, terms and conditions for use, etc.) from millions of photographs uploaded to various MLSs, was junked by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant on the grounds that the plaintiffs weren’t able to sufficiently prove that the uploaded photos had copyright management information, that CoreLogic removed or altered said information, or that any such action was intentional.
The two-year courtroom battle was initiated by real estate photographers Robert Stevens and Steven Vandel, who argued that the removal of the aforementioned information exposed their works to much greater risk of copyright infringement, as reported by Inman.
The duo further alleged that CoreLogic, which is Canada’s largest MLS vendor serving 136 MLSs and around 700,000 subscribers, copied the images to its RealQuest property database—without the permission and authority of the photographers, and without the proper compensation.
Judge Bashant said that the “fatal” argument to the photographers’ position was the fact that real estate agents, and not CoreLogic staff or the plaintiffs themselves, are the ones who upload images to MLSs via CoreLogic’s platform. This undermined the duo’s assertion that the images still had copyright management information when they were uploaded, since even minor adjustments such as cropping, resizing, or rotating could unintentionally remove the information.
The National Association of Realtors welcomed the decision.
“We congratulate CoreLogic on this victory and hope that it serves to deter photographers from bringing class action lawsuits against MLSs or their vendors in the future,” NAR general counsel Katie Johnson wrote in an email statement.
“The court’s conclusion is consistent with the reality of how real estate photographs are used by our members and MLSs today,” Johnson added.

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