Class Action Lawsuit Against CoreLogic – A Wake-up Call For US MLSs

May 11th, 2014

MLSClassActionLong time PFRE readers know that we have been talking and complaining about what appears to be illegal behavior by MLSs regarding copyright for a long time.

There is finally some action that may get the attention of MLSs around the US. Last week A class action lawsuit was filed against CoreLogic. See the Complaint here.

Most are not familiar with the name CoreLogic, I wasn’t, but the company claims to have as clients 17 of the 20 top MLS organizations in the US.  CoreLogic is the dominant technology and software provider to MLS organizations in the US. I’m trying to get ahold of a complete list of which MLSs and cities use CoreLogic’s Matrix MLS software but I don’t have one yet. Here is a partial list that I was able to piece together just by using Google search: Seattle/King County NWMLS, Portland, Oregon RMLS, Orange County CRMLS, Denver  CO, Kansas City MO, Austin TX, Dallas and Fort worth TX, White plains NY, Connecticut Statewide MLS and Charlotte NC. There are many more.

The Complaint asserts that:

millions of photographs of real property created by the Class were uploaded using CoreLogic products.  Upon uploading, Corelogic falsified, removed and/or altered the copyright management information in those photographs to induce, enable, facilitate or conceal copyright infringement of the photographic works of Plaintiff and the Class. Plaintiff and the Class seek civil remedies under 17 U.S.C. §1203(b), including an injunction, impounding of any device or product involved in a violation of 17 U.S.C. §1202 for remedial modification or destruction, damages, costs and attorney fees.

Joel Rothman of Boca Raton, FL and Darren Quinn of San Diego, CA represent the Plaintiff Robert Steven and the class in this lawsuit. Joel and Darren have agreed to write a post that explains this lawsuit, why it was filed and how it may effect PFRE readers. It is likely that many other real estate photographers in cities around the US where CoreLogic MLS software is used may have experienced damages similar to the current Plaintiff Robert Stevens.

Stay tuned for more on this subject as it develops.

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29 Responses to “Class Action Lawsuit Against CoreLogic – A Wake-up Call For US MLSs”

  • FANTASTIC!!!!

  • Interesting. Looks like you can add MidFlorida (MFRMLS) to that list, as they are actually migrating to Matrix, however have been CoreLogic customers for years using the MarketLinx engine. Initially, it was MLXExchange which ONLY ran on IE – and generally had compatibility warnings until cleared when the newest version of IE was released. A couple years ago added Fusion overlay of the MarketLinx engine which works under all other browsers. Under the MarketLinx system, all EFIX data was destroyed, so appears to be the same issue.

    Currently can sign on to all three, but stated intention is to mothball MarketLinx. Signed onto Matrix for the first time and did not like what I saw as they messed up the first thing I do each morning. Guess I ought to sign up for training that they just initiated this month and be a vocal thorn in their side.

  • It was bound to happen eventually, the longer something like this goes on without repercussions, the bolder an entity gets, till someone has had enough..

  • Also all South Florida. This is something that needed to be done. I am an agent and also shoot and really nobody seems to care about the issue. Like for example I am tired to see in the MLS photos of mine of common areas or amenities of a building being used by other agents. At first I tried to write to the agents, but after a while I gave up… It’s all messed up and the MLSs seems to encourage this behavior. How come is possible that they allow this, and like other agents benefiting and using from the effor we are making without paying…. I am glad this is happening for once and I hope this will also alert the MLSs.

  • Presumably, this is all about copyright. If the plaintiffs succeed in their class action, what’s likely to change? Perhaps CoreLogic and others will stop altering photos. Or perhaps real estate agencies and MLS organisations in the US will require that real estate photographers sign over their copyright. Which is more likely? What happens to those who refuse or who are only prepared to sign over copyright for a higher fee? Plenty of other photographers out there.

  • Wow, I am not surprised to see a lawsuit finally arising, really I am only surprised it has taken this long. Here in Louisville we just switched MLSs and we had been looking at CoreLogic, but went with FBS instead. So far it is a great product, but like all MLS software they seem to follow the same procedures with Photographers and Photos. I am interested to see where this lawsuit leads.

  • I’m with the California Desert Association of Realtors, which contracts with Rapattoni Corporation. Rapattoni also contracts with a huge number of other MLS systems nationwide. I expect the same is true with them, too.

    But, to be a newb, how can I determine if Rapattoni does the same with the EXIF data in my online photos?

  • I wonder if CoreLogic used in Canada for MLS listings too? This is one heck of a Pandora’s Box if the jury rules for the plaintiff…

  • @Bill – I think you could just make sure EXIF data was on a photo(s) that you upload to the MLS and then when viewing the listing on the MLS right-click and download the photo(s) and see if it has EXIF on the file.

    @Dave – The point here is if there are serious consequences for breaking copyright laws then it is more likely that MLS rules will honor the rights of all parties involved in the real estate listing process… not just the interests of the company that runs the MLS system. It would be a simple matter to have MLS rules/licensing agreements that honor all parties involved.

  • Yeah I know but there are plenty of examples where plaintiffs have won the battle only to lose the war. We’ll see…

  • In addition to Matrix, CoreLogic also has an awful MLS product called Fusion. Rhode Island’s Statewide MLS is on Fusion.

    statewidemls.com

  • Interested to see what the damages are.

  • @Dave – There’s a really easy answer if an MLS or agent requires a copyright transfer: “No.”

    I for one think this action is long overdue and I am glad to see it being taken.

  • I’m with Dave. The only thing I see happening here is the MLS requiring photographers to sign over the copyright. The NWMLS is already trying to enforce something similar.

  • Interesting conversations. I’m wondering what’s the logic behind corelogic stripping the exif data anyway. I have noticed articles in PFRE about MLS entities wanting to get the rights to pictures so that aggregaters could be sued for copyright infringement of the MLS’s work product.
    Besides agents who didn’t hire the photographer using common area pix, is there a bigger damage issue?

    It seems that a solution would be to set up a contract or an understanding that photographers rights of pictures for use in MLS be signed over to the MLS, but photographers’ rights to the pictures use be retained for other purposes. My understanding when I shoot for a REALTOR is that the pictures will be used for marketing the property that I shot which includes printing, MLS, other electronic means, social media, etc.. I also am fine with the agent giving the photos to the sellers for their use.

  • This could back fire….something to think about. What would stop the agencies from demanding a release for any photos submitted? Then we would be in a mexican standoff. While I see the merit in correcting a misconception by the mls, I don’t think this will go down easy on any of us.

  • I looked up mid Florida (MFRMLS)’s policy. They had an article less then a year ago warning agents not to violate copy right laws. http://www.mfrmls.com/news/822-who-took-that-photo

    They also say that anyone submits is representing that they have authorization. http://mfrmls.com/documents/Rules&Regs_Full.pdf

    “ARTICLE 10 – OWNERSHIP OF THE MFRMLS COMPILATIONS AND COPYRIGHTS
    Section 1. By submitting any property listing to MLS, the Participant represents they have been
    authorized to grant and also thereby grant authority for MLS to include the property listing in its
    copyrighted MLS compilation and also in any statistical report or “comparable.”

    “Listing content includes, but is not limited to, photographs, images, graphics, audio and video
    recordings, virtual tours, drawings, descriptions, remarks, narratives, pricing information, and other
    details or information related to listed property. “

  • @Jerry, yes it could, but that is the chance you take when you do something like this. But what is the alternative, do nothing and watch it progress. And who is to say that companies like them wont demand rights later down the road anyway..then what..? Some RE brokers already do that…A happy medium is what is needed, not a take all by one side…

  • Apparently, this issue (the stripping of copyright, and other, metadata) goes way beyond some MLS systems and is a frequent occurrence on the Internet. How much of it is willful and how much is negligence or ignorance I do not know, and I am not sure whether the law makes a distinction when it comes to assessing penalties. However, if this lawsuit is successful and garners a lot of media attention, I think it could be very helpful for informing businesses and the public alike about copyright matters in general, as well as the issue of copyright notices (whether in metadata or in “print”) in particular.

  • This is long overdue, and I glad that somebody is taking action.

    This goes well beyond MLS, and there are several issues at play here. Some MLS systems claim copyright to every image loaded on their system. Of course legally, that doesn’t fly, but what do you think happens when all those pictures populate onto IDX, Redfin, Zillow, Trulia and all the rest of the websites? Think about it, they are all making money using content that does not belong to them. Not only that, but they are making a whole lot more money than the people that actually created that content.

    @ Tim W, I agree, it’s been going on way to long

    @ Dave Williamson, you are in Australia, right? So I don’t quite understand your concern about what we are doing here as trying to correct a long standing problem with US MLS systems. Why would you suggest that we would have to surrender our copyright, or there are plenty of other photographers out there?

    @ Malia, what “similar” thing is it that the NW MLS is trying to enforce? You if anybody should understand, and put value in, what you create. Not simply cave, because somebody else might not.

    Let’s be really clear here. MLS benefits from the use of our images. MLS needs quality photographs more than we need them. Pictures may not have been of great importance to them 15 years ago because it was mostly a tool used by realtors, but nowadays, with 70 percent of the traffic being consumers, they’d be dead without our high quality images!

    We are not even asking them to pay us for the use of them, we are simply saying that they can not do whatever the heck they want with them (including selling them to other sites for profit) – because the images belong to us, the creator and copyright holder.

    As a professional photographer, this ought to be something that you stand behind 100 percent, because if you don’t, or don’t think it’s important, you are doing the entire industry harm.

  • George, same thing happens here in Australia, at least in Western Australia. EXIF data is stripped out so it’s harder to search the web for your images (there are services that will alert you if your camera serial number is found in the wild) and our MLSs downsize photos and mess up colours and that’s very annoying. Sometimes legal actions in one country have a flow-on effect in others, so yes, I have an interest in the outcome.

    Surrendering copyright might just be the ticket the MLS and real estate organisations use to not have to worry about exactly the reason for this class action. Is that so far fetched?

  • @ Dave Williamson “Surrendering copyright” of military training on an obstacle course where the exercise was teamwork crossing a ravine to escape the enemy. As we were bringing the planks over to our side, the observer noted that we had passed the exercise and just drop the planks into the ravine. We replied that we were going to regroup and come back and counter attack. It is all a matter of perspective, and surrender is not an option, particularly when there are alternatives.

    While I have done none of the below, I have wondered what impact they would have
    1) Become a member of MLS policy board/working groups – particularly individuals such as myself, Realtor and photographer. You would have greater knowledge of the issues to take the blinders off people who dream up these draconian ideas.

    2) While most websites show off your photos, create a series of videos that educate the public/realtors which also enhance your SEO. While storylines could be product based, they generally would be blog like addressing one issue at a time but keeping open, informative, and constructive. Storylines may include…
    a) Examples of your work and what to look for in product delivery by any RE photographer
    b) How much leaving on the table (based around the Redfin study, and perhaps NAR statistics of sources used by buyers).
    c) Video, the difference between the still photos you just saw repackaged in video format vs true video. (i.e. raise the bar and expectation)
    d) Copyright – you cant’s afford it and wouldn’t know what to do with it if you had it (registration issues – none of these that demand it realized the protections losing as they are not going to go to the expense of registering it)
    e) Commissions – abolish the word and call it what it is, the seller’s marketing expense/budget. Risk free as not paid unless sold and costs borne by the Realtor. If cutting corners to maximize profits – poor photos, no tour/video etc – where else that cant’s see?
    f) You get what you pay for – can the cheap photographer make more flipping burgers at McDonalds. Probably has no business license, insurance and obviously devalues their skill.

    While some of those may be off the wall, that is the nature of brainstorming. And the list of possible storylines goes on.

  • LarryG: The term “surrender our copyright” was simply plucked out of George’s question to me. I certainly didn’t advocate any such thing – I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate here and raising the possibility that a successful case may have negative repercussions for real estate photographers in the long term (and not only in the US).

    Please read the relevant posts again. And please, if you’re going to object against what someone is saying, make sure you understand what they’re saying. My post went from “What if…?” to “What’s it to you?” to something about military training that I’m scratching my head over, literally.

  • Dave…sorry. There is no way to edit after sending and immediately realized that left off ‘reminds me’ of military training…Leaving off those 2 words affects the context as I tried to use an analogy from when I was in the military several decades ago. Didn’t mean anything personal, and surrender is a great word as it accurately describes the expectation as one receives the look of shock that one would actually charge for it. Essentially, it is a foreign concept as they don’t place any value of on the copyright they own with each of their iPhone snaps, so why should we. Ironically, if you shift the discussion over to the written description that they create, they begin to recognize the value if someone copies their words, even if they don’t realize that is covered by the same copyright laws. There is just a huge disconnect, and that is the point I was trying to make – take the offensive to educate where they become aware of the issue before they object. When I have spoken to some large groups about copyright, as an attention getting opening, I comment what a great looking group that needs a picture, pull out my cell phone and snap one, then remark how I own the copyright to that photo – just as they do with every photo they take. I have taken them from an audience to someone with an investment in the subject.

    My list in the earlier post was a quick brainstorm of what we talk/complain about. The intent was to raise the question of how we take the offensive, shifting it from an internal discussion among peers to the much broader community awareness.

  • George, thanks but I don’t need the lecture. I do understand copyright and the value of my work. I never said that I signed the NWMLS’s form.

  • @Malia, is the NWMLS insisting on transfer of copyrights or is it the brokers? I’ve seen a couple of instances where there has been an article on the local real estate association web site misinforming the members about copyright issues and then hearing about brokers insisting on photographers transferring the copyright on their images. I have seen a article on my local real estate association web site that poorly covered copyright issues. The MLS rules only require that the poster is authorized to use the images and I’ve never had a broker or agent inquire about licenses although, I provide them with my invoices.

  • @ Malia, it certainly was not intended as a lecture. On the contrary, knowing the high standard of your work, I was simply surprised that you appeared so worried about MLS trying to pressure you to surrender what is clearly yours, or that if you did not, that there are plenty of other photographers out there, as stated by Dave. That’s all. It was not a swipe at you.

    There has always been plenty of other photographers out there. There has always been those willing to do it for less, or for nothing. Those that will let the client have or do whatever they want with the images. Most are long gone, and those that remain, have learned what it takes to stay in business. Sometimes that means that we have to say no. Saying no, while rare, has not had any significant negative impact on my career.

  • Re. George and no, learning when to say no is important. So is learning how to say no.

  • I’m not a photographer, I’m I a real estate broker. Corelogic has been stealing our work product for years now they have the gall to fine us if we make a mistake in entering data. Let me rephrase that, CORELOGIC, AS A VENDOR, HAS NOW ASSUMED REGULATORY POWERS OVER THE CUSTOMER.

    Our local associations seem oblivious to the abuse. The FUSION/MLXCHANGE/MATIRX software frequently malfunctions and we as consumers have no option in this monopolistic environment. I will be contacting the referenced law firm.
    Thank you for this information.

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