CoStar, RealMassive settle copyright lawsuit

Startup denies deliberate theft of images

From Left: CoStar CEO Andrew Florance and RealMassive's Craig Hancock
From Left: CoStar CEO Andrew Florance and RealMassive's Craig Hancock

UPDATED, 9:50 p.m., March 2: Commercial real estate research company CoStar settled its copyright infringement lawsuit against startup RealMassive, less than two years after the publicly-traded company dropped a fight against users of a competitive product, CompStak.

CoStar, which runs an online commercial real estate database and has a market capitalization of $5.82 billion, sued RealMassive in May, claiming the startup used its copyrighted images of properties without permission.

“We are glad to have this lawsuit resolved,” RealMassive’s CEO Craig Hancock said in a statement Wednesday. “CoStar’s claim that we deliberately added its photos to our database was false. Our firm went to great lengths and expense to avoid acquiring CoStar’s images, but apparently a few images slipped through the cracks early on.” Hancock did not specify the terms of the settlement.

Austin-based RealMassive is an online marketplace that allows users to share commercial real estate data. The firm is among a handful of startups challenging CoStar’s dominance in the online commercial real estate data business.

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In its own statement, CoStar dismissed the suggestion that the copyright infringements were isolated incidents. “RealMassive is not an example of innovation. Rather, its service was powered by content that was stolen from those who created it through hard work and investment,” a CoStar spokesperson wrote to The Real Deal. “As the case progressed, it became even clearer that RealMassive’s systematic theft of CoStar intellectual property had been conducted on a real massive scale.”

Users of a competing product, crowdsourced leasing database CompStak, were hit by a similar CoStar lawsuit in early 2014. That suit, which alleged copyright infringement by CompStak users, was ultimately withdrawn. CompStak was never named a party in the suit.

Under the terms of CoStar’s settlement with RealMassive, the firms agreed to “work together to avoid future disputes.” According to RealMassive’s statement, CoStar also agreed to mark its copyrighted images and to give RealMassive a written takedown notice before filing any future lawsuits.

CoStar, which is led by Andrew Florance and went public in 1998, has a history of acquiring other real estate information companies. In 2012, it paid $860 million for Loopnet. In 2014, it paid $585 million for, and bought Apartment Finder for $170 million the following year.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described a previous lawsuit brought by CoStar against CompStak users. CompStak was not named a party in that lawsuit.