EFF to Zillow: McMansion Hell Can Poke Whatever Fun It Wants at Any Listing You Republish

Note: Story updated below.

A couple of days after a lawyer from Zillow sent McMansion Hell author Kate Wagner a letter demanding she take down from her website all the images of homes she’d ever found on the real estate listings aggregator site and artfully marked up with satirical commentary, an attorney from the Electronic Freedom Foundation has responded with an artful letter on Wagner’s behalf and a blog post of its own. (And it’s perhaps worth noting that in creating the delightful graphic above to illustrate its no-can-do response to Zillow’s threat to sue, the foundation itself chose to work from a Creative Commons image.) Writes EFF’s Daniel Nazer: “Using humor and parody, Wagner tries to illustrate the architectural horror of modern McMansions. . . . Importantly, Zillow does not own, and cannot assert, the copyright in these photos. But even if it could, McMansion Hell’s annotation of photographs for the purpose of criticism and commentary is a classic example of fair use.”

So what’s the fallout?


“Zillow’s letter unleashed a wave of negative publicity for the company,” Nazer continues. “In response, Zillow has insisted that it did not intend to shut down Wagner’s blog. However, it does appear to be standing by its demand that she remove all images sourced from Zillow’s website. Zillow has no basis for such a demand and our client will not be removing any previous posts.”

Henceforth, though, Wagner will take her browsing and downloading and annotating elsewhere: “She has informed Zillow, however, that she is not interested in using its site for her blog in the future.

Update, 5:45 pm: Zillow says it “has decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell.”

Image: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fair McMansion Use

3 Comment

  • Yes!!

  • The Streisand effect has struck again…

  • How petty of Zillow, glad someone stood up for her. The sad thing is that someone in Zillow’s corporate office made a conscious decision to go after the girl. Guess they ran out of real estate smut to publish that week and were just that bored.