California photographer, George Gutenberg filed a lawsuit today against Zillow, alleging copyright violations for their use of his real estate photos, indicating that Zillow scrapes images from Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) rather than using listing data syndicated to them.
Court documents request a bench trial, damages (plus attorney’s fees and court costs), and that Zillow stop using Gutenberg’s copyrighted images. Under 17 U.S.C. § 504, Gutenberg is seeking “an amount to be proven or, in the alternative, at Plaintiff’s election, an award for statutory damages against Defendant in an amount up to $150,000.00 for each infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §
504(c), whichever is larger.”
If Gutenberg were to win, Exhibit A of the lawsuit cites 543 images in question across 17 listings on Zillow, which would total $81,450,000 or more.
The issue of real estate photography copyrights has long been convoluted. There are six stakeholders that have consistently argued that they own images used in real estate listings: homeowners, real estate photographers, the listing agent, the broker, MLSs, and real estate listing websites.
The argument that homeowners own the rights to images taken of their property has very little merit, and we have uncovered no copyright lawsuits that a homeowner has won regarding photography.
One can see why an agent or broker believes they have the right to the images they’ve paid for, but those parties don’t always read their photographer’s agreement prior to paying their invoice, while MLSs and websites have slid into their Terms of Service that they own the copyright once it is uploaded to their servers (be it directly or via syndication).
But what is different about Gutenberg’s position than many others is that he retains the copyright to all photographs taken of each property, allowing the agent a “limited license to use the photographs for up to one-year purposes of marketing the property.”
Wouldn’t that include Zillow? Nope.
The license “expressly states that it is not transferrable and prohibits third party use without permission from Gutenberg.”
Unlike many photographers, Gutenberg actually registers his images with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Mathew Higbee of Higbee and Associates issued the following statement to The American Genius:
“Mr. Gutenberg has a robust working relationship with many top real estate agents in southern California and across the nation. Mr. Gutenberg’s clients gladly pay to license his work knowing that Mr. Gutenberg’s high-quality photographs and signature style add significant value to their listings. In addition to real estate listings, Mr. Gutenberg also licenses of his photographs for editorial and commercial use in print and online publications, advertisements, and retail and commercial businesses.
The agents that engage Mr. Gutenberg understand that they are permitted to use his photographs for the limited purpose of promoting their real estate listing, which includes placing the photographs on the MLS. Content placed on the MLS is only available for the life of the listing and is immediately removed when the listing is sold or otherwise taken off the market. Mr. Gutenberg is not aware of any of his real estate clients directly syndicating his photographs to Zillow, nor is Mr. Gutenberg aware of any of his real estate clients exceeding the scope of rights granted in their individual licensing agreements with him.
Rather, it appears that Zillow, owner of the largest real estate website in the world, indiscriminately copies millions of photographs per day off of the MLS in an effort to build what they refer to as their ‘Living Database of All Homes,’ which Zillow has leveraged into multi-billion dollar company. Zillow’s unlawful copying comes at the expense of creators and rights holders such as Mr. Gutenberg who depend on payment of reasonable licensing fees by those who exploit their works.”
The implication is that the clients are not in violation of the copyright if they didn’t syndicate listings to Zillow or upload them directly. A claim that is far heavier than a standard copyright lawsuit, and stands to call into question Zillow’s practices.
The internet has long changed how people copyright images, who owns them, what agreements each party enters as they upload and/or syndicate data to third party sites. This isn’t the first lawsuit of this nature, nor the last.
We’ll keep you updated as this lawsuit progresses.
Age discrimination lawsuits are coming due to the pandemic – don’t add to the mess
(BUSINESS NEWS) Age discrimination is spreading despite intentions to help, and employers need to know how to proceed in this unprecedented era.
A 2015 survey found that 75% of older workers found age an obstacle in job hunting. COVID-19 made the situation much worse.
Not only do older workers deal with discrimination, but they are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, older workers were hit the hardest by job loss during the pandemic, which is unusual during a recession. As offices reopen, employers need to be careful to avoid age discrimination in rehiring.
Lawyers expect age discrimination lawsuits to increase.
Last September, Harris Meyer published an article in the ABA Journal that predicted a “flood of age discrimination lawsuits” from the pandemic. Employers who have good intentions by keeping older employees out of the workplace to protect their health are still guilty of age discrimination.
What can employers do to avoid age discrimination?
It may be fine line between making sure you don’t discriminate based on age while offering ADA accommodations. The first thing employers should do is to know what laws apply based on their location. Some states exempt employees over 65 from returning to the workplace out of safety fears, meaning that those employees can still get unemployment. Other states are cutting benefits if employees don’t return to work, regardless of age.
There are some jurisdictions that have passed legislation about which workers have the right to be recalled. Next, review your own policies and agreements with laid off and terminated employees. You may want to consult legal counsel to make sure you’re covering your bases.
As you rehire, whether you’re bringing back former employees or hiring new team members, do not make hiring decisions based on age. Keep good documentation about your decisions to terminate certain employees. If you are citing poor performance, make sure to have a record of that. Don’t terminate older employees who have bigger salaries just because of lower sales. Monitor your words (and that of your hiring team) to avoid bias in hiring and firing.
Provide accommodations or not?
According to the SHRM, “Workers age 40 and older are protected from bias by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; however, that law doesn’t require employers to make accommodations for safety concerns.”
Still, employers can provide flexibility for workers, but it largely depends on the type of job. Reaching an accommodation for an office worker will be much easier than accommodating a sanitation worker.
Employers should assume that workers aged 40 and older can return to work. When the need for help is raised by the employee, enter negotiations for accommodations. Don’t initiate the conversation, and absolutely avoid any references to age.
Know that the environment may change as the pandemic continues to affect workers.
Be thoughtful about your hiring practices moving forward to avoid costly litigation from age discrimination.
Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it
(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.
Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.
“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”
Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.
How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.
Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.
The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.
I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.
What’s DMT and why are techies and entrepreneurs secretly taking the drug?
(BUSINESS) The tech world and entrepreneur world are quietly taking a psychadellic in increasing numbers – they make a compelling case, but it’s not without risks.
Move over tortured artists and festival-goers, psychedelics aren’t just for you anymore. An increasing number of professionals in Silicon Valley swear by “microdosing” psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) in efforts to heighten creativity and drive innovative efforts.
This probably isn’t a shock to anyone following trends in tech and startups, particularly the glorification of the 8-trillion hour workweek (#hustle). But business owners, entrepreneurs, and technologists are also turning to other hallucinogens to awaken higher levels of consciousness in hopes of influencing favorable business results.
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is growing in popularity as business leaders and creatives flock to Peru or mastermind retreats to ingest the drug. It exists in the human body as well as other animals and plants. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Rick Strassman says “this ‘spirit’ molecule provides our consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected visions, thoughts and feelings. It throws open the door to worlds beyond our imagination.”
The substance is commonly synthesized in a lab and smoked, with short-lived effects (between five to 45 minutes, however, some say it lasts for hours).
Traditionally, however, it is extracted from various Amazonian plant species and snuffed or consumed as a tea (called ayahuasca or yage). The effects of DMT when consumed in this manner can last as long as ten hours. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the “ayahuasca experience” for its touted ability to provide clarity, vision and inventiveness.
Physical effects are said to include an increase in blood pressure and a raised heart rate. Users report gastrointestinal effects when taken orally, commonly referred to as the “purge.” The purging can include vomiting or diarrhea, which makes for interesting conversation at the next company whiteboarding session.
Users are subject to dizziness, difficulty regulating body temperature, and muscular incoordination. Users also risk seizures, respiratory failure, or falling into a coma.
DMT can interfere with medications or foods, a reason why many indigenous tribes that work with it also follow specific dietary guidelines prior to ingestion. Not paying attention to diet or prescription medication prior to consuming ayahuasca or DMT can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, potentially even causing trauma or death.
So why the hell are people putting themselves through this ordeal?
Many claim profound mental effects, often experiencing a transformative occurrence that provides clarity and healing. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common, with reports of geometric shapes and sharp, bold colors. Many report intense out-of-body experiences, an altered sense of time and space or ego dissolution (“ego death”).
Studies have indicated long-term effects in people who use DMT. Some report a reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Subjects in an observational study showed significant reductions in stress after participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, with effects lasting through the 4-week follow-up period.
Subjects also showed improvements in convergent thinking that were still evident at the 4-week follow up. People who consume DMT generally chronicle improvements in their overall satisfaction of life, and claim they are more mindful and aware after the experience.
It’s important to note that dying from ayahuasca is rarely reported, but that doesn’t rule out the risk. It’s also illegal in the states, explaining why groups flock to Peru to visit licensed ayahuasca retreats or why technologists buy DMT on the dark web to avoid detection.
For those considering a DMT journey (and we don’t recommend it based on the illegal nature and health risks), it’s critical to gain a full understanding of the potential risks prior to consumption.
For more reading:
- A full (and long) history of DMT
- The documented effects of DMT
- What it’s like to take DMT (according to users)
This story was first published here in June, 2019.
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