The Lawyers That Filed The Class Action Suit Against CoreLogic Need Your Help

February 24th, 2016

copyrightRemember the Class Action suit we talked about last May? Well, it’s not settled. Today I talked to Joel Rothman and Darren Quinn the lawyers that filed the suit on behalf of real estate photographers and the need your help. The following is their request for help with this suit.

Many real estate photographers have learned that photo metadata can be used by photographers to track their photographs and identify infringements. Joel Rothman and Darren Quinn are two lawyers who have filed a nationwide class action lawsuit on behalf of real estate photographers against CoreLogic Inc., the country’s leading providing of software to upload photos to a multiple listing service (MLS).

The federal lawsuit alleges that CoreLogic systematically stripped out metadata (including Artist and Copyright) from images uploaded to MLS’s operated by CoreLogic or that use CoreLogic software. The lawsuit alleges that CoreLogic distributes the photos with the stripped metadata through various CoreLogic services.

The law CoreLogic is accused of violating (17 U.S.C. §1202) was adopted by Congress in 1998 as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. The DMCA protects copyright owners from the removal of information embedded in digital image files, such as information that identifies the photographer, the title of the work, and its owner. Copyright Management Information, or CMI, is used by photographers worldwide to protect against piracy.

Joel and Darren filed the class action lawsuit with the help of two professional real estate and architectural photographers, Robert Stevens of Florida and Steven Vandel of California. Stevens and Vandel seek class certification on behalf of all real estate photographers whose photographs have had CMI stripped out by CoreLogic without authorization.

Since the lawsuit was filed, CoreLogic claims to have fixed their software. Joel and Darren want to test whether CoreLogic has really fixed their software to see if all the important metadata fields (including IPTC Core and IPTC Extension metadata fields (more info here) are being saved and not stripped when photographs are uploaded to CoreLogic software.

Will you help Joel and Darren? They need real estate photographers who license their photos to agents that are members of an MLS that use CoreLogic software (Matrix or Innovia) to take part in a test of photo metadata to see what photo metadata fields are preserved by CoreLogic’s software. If you are not sure if your MLS uses CoreLogic software Joel or Darren can tell you (the majority of MLSs in the US use CoreLogic).

Specifically, Joel and Darren need volunteers who can either provide an address for photographs they have licensed in the past year with full photo metadata, including Basic, IPTC and IPTC Extension, or add this metadata to photographs for a new listing and provide that address. More information on adding photo metadata using Lightroom or Photoshop can be found here:

If you email Joel at joel@sriplaw.com and Darren at dq@dqlaw.com they can explain further.

Thanks to all PFRE readers willing to help with this important issue!

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8 Responses to “The Lawyers That Filed The Class Action Suit Against CoreLogic Need Your Help”

  • Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s say that CoreLogic is successfully sued. They’re a big company so the fine is just an inconvenient itch to them, but an itch they must scratch. They consult their lawyers who tell them the way out is to insist that the real estate agencies that upload photos via CoreLogic’s software MUST own copyright to those photos. They supply a sample agreement that agencies can use to get the photographer to sign over their copyright. No sign, no work for the photographer. There are plenty of other photographers out there ready, willing and able to fill the gap left by those who stick to their principles and who don’t sign. CoreLogic, or an offshoot company, even conducts masterclass workshops to bring those photographers up to speed in making exceptional real estate photos. The expense of running the workshops is financed in part by the bigger real estate agencies and in part by course fees paid by the photographers. Those photographers even receive certification that they have attained a particular level of proficiency. Existing photographers find themselves out in the cold, as far as real estate photography goes. Being mostly sole practitioners, they’re unable to put up much of a fight against the might and organisational abilities of CoreLogic and the larger real estate firms to do this.

    Plausible? Sure. Possible? Maybe. Do we want to win this battle at the expense of losing the war? I’ll let you decide.

  • Dave Williamson, this problem of the stripping of metadata from image files is far greater than than just CoreLogic. Many websites do it, including the vast majority of social media websites.

  • With discussions coming and going about “Orphan Works”, it’s very important that any online service not be allowed to remove metadata. Some precedence needs to be established so that photographers will not have their work stolen. It’s a crime to remove the VIN number(s) from a car. Metadata is the VIN of a digital photograph.

  • David Eichler: You’re missing my point, which is that poking a stick at a bigger opponent can often be detrimental in the long run. Almost all experienced real estate photographers are well aware that the practice is widespread.

  • Dave, You raise some interesting scenarios. In fact, some of what you suggest might happen has already been happening for years.

    For example, back in November, an article was posted on PFRE about the National Association of Realtor’s attempts to “educate” agents and brokers about copyright, and a sample form license that NAR was urging agents and brokers to use with photographers. Here is the post: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2015/11/26/great-news-nar-is-finally-educating-realtors-about-listing-photo-copyright-law/ The problem with NAR’s license is that it gives an exclusive license which is the equivalent of a transfer of copyright. So, you see, it is happening already.

    But photographers have an advantage. The advantage is knowledge. Most agents and brokers have no knowledge whatsoever about copyright, and they have little interest to learn. Photographers that understand their rights can offer reasonable licensing terms that give agents and brokers what they want and need while retaining important rights that photographers need. I give away a sample license that accomplishes exactly that to any photographer who asks.

    As to the remainder of your post, while it is conceivably possible for brokers or companies to cooperate and offer workshops or certifications, but in my experience that will never happen and you are giving the real estate industry way too much credit. Everyone is competing with each other, not cooperating. The little cooperation they can muster is spent on futile efforts to prevent Zillow from destroying their business model. Photographers may be on their radar screen, but you are sadly a tiny blip compared to thousands of other giant problems they are dealing with day in and day out.

    The smart thing for the RE industry to do is work with photographers. Photographers have the thing they need the most and the thing that is most protectable. You will be the mouse that roars.

    Joel

  • I just looked at a listing I shot Tuesday this week and it appears to me that CoreLogic has not fixed the issue. Just emailed Joel and Darren the info.

  • I wish we could control it ourselves.

    Why couldn’t we get the folks who write .jpeg compression formulas to offer something like .jEX, which would be an “expirable jpg”. Then, photographers could put an expiration date right into the metadata, and the law could require companies like CoreLogic to copy the metadata, thus the files would simply cease to function after a specified date. At that time, a place marker in the file could show contact info for the photographer when the image expires. “This image is available for repurchase, contact…”

    Then these companies wouldn’t have to go to the expense of policing themselves.

    Or, They could even require the realtor the put in the date when the listing expires, and their web software would simply extinguish the content after that date. I had dozens of realtors complain that they gets calls about properties long since expired because these MLS and other companies don’t maintain current vs past.

  • Kevin…the problem with the ‘expiring jpg’ is that the value of those sold listings continue afterwards. Owners of new potential listings check out a Realtor’s past sales before they sign a listing contract that the Realtor then calls you to shoot. You could be hurting yourself. Likewise, this week I got two inquiry’s about a property I sold in January that “lingered” on MLS and syndication sites. While delivering the bad news that it sold, I am not going to tell someone actively in the market for a property meeting that description and price range to get out of my face. Rather, offer to find something currently available that they are looking for. That is the truer value of a listing as it refers additional clients to you and you don’t need both sides when 50% plus 50% on two (or more – bonus) similar priced properties equals (or exceeds) the 100% of both sides.

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