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Zillow ordered to pay $8.3M in copyright infringement case

Listings website was sued by Illinois photo company for “brazen theft” of images
February 15, 2017 10:30AM

Spencer Rascoff and a screenshot of Zillow Digs

Listings giant Zillow is getting an expensive lesson in copyright infringement.

The parent company of New York City-based StreetEasy was ordered to pay $8.3 million last week after losing a copyright suit accusing it of “brazen theft” of thousands of images.

Rosemont, Ill.-based VHT Inc. filed a complaint in 2015 alleging that Seattle-based Zillow improperly displayed its photos on its Zillow Digs site, which focuses on home design, and its main listings site. In December 2016, a judge dismissed the claim involving Zillow’s main listing site. The claim involving Zillow Digs, however, went to trial in January, and last week a jury sided with VHT. It awarded the photo company $79,875 in actual damages and $8.24 million in damages.

“We have persistently maintained our belief that this suit was without merit,” Zillow told GeekWire in a statement. “While we are pleased that the majority of original claims were dismissed in this case, we regret that the jury did not find for us completely on those that remained, and will vigorously pursue all options to overturn their verdict.”

Zillow plans to file a motion for a new trial on some claims, the company said in a regulatory filing dated Feb. 9. The company will also ask its insurance carrier to reimburse the cost of legal expenses and damages that are not vacated by the court, it said. [GeekWire]E.B. Solomont