Read the Fine Print

There has been a lot of talk about the BC Supreme Court ruling in our lawsuit against the Rogers Communications subsidiary, Zoocasa Inc. Some are saying, “Big deal, its old news now that Zoocasa’s stopped scraping information off Century21.ca.” Others, like us, are seeing it as an important recognition that companies like us have a right to control the way our online information is used.

In the decision, released earlier this month, Mr. Justice Robert Punnett issued an injunction banning Zoocasa from using photos and listing descriptions from Century21.ca and posting them on Zoocasa’s website. The Supreme Court of British Columbia judgment says that the Terms of Use displayed on Century21.ca constituted a binding contract between us and its users. Our Terms of Use does not allow another company or individuals to “frame in another website, post on another website or otherwise use [our] content for any public, commercial or non-personal use”.

The courts agreed that the Terms of Use was indeed an enforceable contract and that our sales professionals have the right to control their own content, which is copyrighted information. We set off on this lawsuit for principle. We did it to protect our sales professionals and to give them control of how and where their information is being used.

We have no problems with real estate agents using Zoocasa...as long as agents give their permission to participate in the service. It’s no different than an agent posting on Craigslist or Kjiji. The point is they have to opt in for the service. No one else should be able to take an agent’s listing information and use it somewhere without consent – for good or bad.

Our problem was with Zoocasa taking information from our website without asking our permission and continuing to do so after we expressed our desire for them to stop. A Rogers spokesperson did say that Zoocasa had changed their business model in March 2010 so that now they are no longer scraping information from sites and are in full compliance with the real estate boards. Would they have stopped scraping from our site if there wasn’t a lawsuit? Who knows. What we do know is that it took them 2 years to change the way they do business.

All that being said; I’m not against sharing our data...as long as we all agree to it. Some of you may know that CENTURY 21 Canada, along with Royal LePage and Re/Max have been working with Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) to create a national data exchange system. The idea was brought to a vote at CREA’s AGM in the spring and was approved to move forward.

Our vision is a permission-based model where our System members are asked, “Would you like to participate?” If they say yes, then their website would show all their listings and the listings of other brokerages that have agreed to participate (regardless of brand).

We’re still working with CREA on how this data sharing system will work. It could be us using the existing feeds that local boards sent to CREA or we may be working with boards across the country. It’s been a long process, but we want to do it right AND we want to make sure we get permission of the owner of the data.

1 Comment

  1. bhp 10/22/2011 at 4:31 AM

    very interesting article, i've always wanted to write my own blog but i don't have much time,
    regards from bhp

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