CREXi and CoStar Group both sell real estate information to help customers follow trends and more accurately value properties. Having the right information when buying or selling a commercial property worth $100M can make or break a deal and shift profits into the hands of those with more knowledge.

These companies have trade secrets on how they gather the information, aggregate it, model with it, and produce recommendations, charts, reports, etc. Recently, CoStar Group sued CREXi for “massive” copyright infringement and intellectual property theft [1]. It is alleged that CREXi employees were creating fake accounts to access CoStar’s data. Generally, creating a “fake” account is a violation of the terms of service. It’s even more egregious if it is being done to steal (or scrape) data and reuse/sell it for profit.

In a similar manner, Google scrapes many sites at varying intervals. They keep the news results fairly up to date, and when displaying things like the news, they have advertisements. Is Google stealing someone else’s copyrighted works so they can sell ads? Google has a News Initiative [2] that is drawing attention from France and Australia [3], to name a few. Selling someone else’s news is illegal in some countries and jurisdictions. There’s got to be a limit to what one can “borrow” from another before it’s the equivalent of stealing, copyright infringement, or just not classic “fair use.”  Is it OK for Google to scrape a news site for information that it then monetizes indirectly (via advertisements) but not OK for CREXi to scrape CoStar’s website and resell that information directly? There’s clearly a difference, but like many of these differences, they’re not black or white; context is required, and they’re usually a shade of grey.

 

Grey Market Labs is a Public Benefit Corporation founded with the social mission to protect life online. We build revolutionary software and hardware products, and partner with like-minded industry leaders, to create a future with “privacy-as-a-service”.

Simply: we prevent data from being compromised and protect our customers work, online.

Contact us to see how we can work together.

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