Commercial real estate data marketplace RealMassive has agreed to pay CoStar $1 million to settle a lawsuit that CoStar filed in May 2015 alleging copyright infringement.
CoStar claimed that RealMassive deliberately used photos owned by CoStar in its open and free online database. RealMassive denied the allegation and removed the photos in question but CoStar demanded penalties under the Copyright Act.
Craig Hancock, CEO of RealMassive, said in a statement, “We are glad to have this lawsuit resolved. 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.”
The RealMassive-Costar settlement agreement calls for the two companies to work together to avoid future disputes. CoStar has agreed to mark its photographs with visible copyright notices or watermarks. In addition, before filing any future lawsuit, CoStar will give RealMassive written notice of any grievance it may have, and give RealMassive time to remedy any alleged errors.
Hancock said that CoStar’s lawsuit was excessive and meritless and that the company didn’t send a standard takedown notice identifying the contested photos. Because huge penalties can be imposed under the Copyright Act, even when the alleged infringement caused no harm, RealMassive agreed to pay CoStar the $1 million, believing that it would be less than the cost to defend the suit.
“This settlement, although disagreeable, comes with a cost far less than prolonged litigation. More importantly, RealMassive gains critical protections that allow us to grow our platform without the risk of another sudden lawsuit by CoStar. RealMassive’s customers and partners can now be confident we are here to serve them for the long haul. It’s a big win for commercial real estate professionals looking to modernize the industry,” Hancock said.
In recent years, CoStar has ramped up its copyright enforcement efforts, filing or threatening to file lawsuits against numerous companies and individuals for alleged misappropriation of data. Hancock and others in the industry have argued that CoStar’s lawsuits and threats are designed to stifle competition. Hancock recently shared thoughts about the settlement on his company blog.