Zillow and McMansion Hell bury the hatchet after nastygram rouses internet’s ire

All is well again in McMansion Hell, the blog doing god’s work by sassing the hideous architecture on display among the eponymous structures sprawling all over our otherwise pleasant suburbs. Zillow sent a letter earlier this week threatening legal action over the blog’s use of images taken from the real estate giant’s site — but as these boneheaded corporations just can’t seem to learn, this sort of thing generally backfires, as it did today.

The letter, sent on Monday, is a classic nastygram case, making a plausible-sounding complaint that has no basis in reality. Kate Wagner, who runs the blog, did take it down for fear of being sued. But free speech advocates online quickly jumped to her defense, pointing out the holes in Zillow’s arguments. For instance:

Zillow’s Terms of Use… specifically prohibit reproducing, modifying, distributing, or otherwise creating derivative works from any portion of the Zillow Site.

Wagner never agreed to and isn’t bound by those terms.

Courts weigh four primary factors in determining whether use of a copyrighted work is fair use…none support an argument that Your use is fair use.

The four factors mentioned seem pretty supportive of that argument to me.

Your actions infringe the rights of each copyright holder of the Images.

Nope, and even if they did, Zillow — which doesn’t own the images — can’t decide to sue on the copyright holders’ behalf.

Your activities may violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

They really don’t.

And so on. The EFF took on the case, and wrote a thorough takedown of Zillow’s arguments. The three parties came to the agreement that the site will stay up, along with all the posts Wagner has already made using Zillow images, but that she’ll source her photos elsewhere from now on. And Zillow won’t sue, because how could they?

Just a nice feel-good outcome all around here. Good job, everyone.