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A federal judge recently partially upheld the ruling in the VHT Studios-Zillow copyright infringement lawsuit that found Zillow liable for violating VHT’s copyright, cutting the award Zillow was ordered to pay from $8.3 million to approximately $4 million, as well as overturning the verdict for the majority of images in the case.

VHT filed a suit in 2015 claiming Zillow violated its copyright through the use of its listing photos on Zillow Digs, and later alleged copyright infringement on Zillow’s listings website. (The jury dismissed the latter, though VHT plans to appeal that decision.)

The judge cited insufficient evidence as cause to overturn the verdict for some 24,000 of the roughly 28,000 images VHT claims the copyright was “willfully infringed” upon by Zillow.

The outcome of the case is “important because it protects the interest of photographers, real estate agents, brokerages, homebuyers and sellers,” said Brian Balduf, co-founder and CEO of VHT Studios, in a statement. “We’ve been very encouraged by the support we’ve received from the industry. The issue of usage rights goes well beyond VHT Studios; there are thousands of photographers shooting real estate photographs, and even agents who shoot their own photographs, who all need to be assured that the photographs will be used properly.”

“In this digital world, some people don’t understand that images displayed online are not public domain and require licensing,” said Nancy Wolff, outside counsel for the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), in support of VHT. “DMLA encourages copyright advocacy and education and using copyright laws to encourage proper licensing of images. We are pleased the Court upheld the jury verdict that Zillow’s use of VHT images was willful with respect to 2,700 images. This should serve as a strong warning to those who illegally use copyrighted content on the internet, instead of licensing content.”

Zillow issued the following statement: “We have persistently maintained our belief that this suit was without merit and we are pleased that the court largely supported our position,” Zillow said in a statement. “We are currently evaluating the verdict and deciding on what our next steps will be. We take copyright protection and enforcement seriously and will continue to respect copyright permissions across our platforms.”

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

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