October 25, 2016

How Is Zillow Using IDX Listing Data?

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How Is Zillow Using IDX Listing Data?

In the ongoing legal battle initiated by the National Association of REALTORS® and Move Inc. against listing aggregator Zillow, Zillow’s defamation counterclaim has raised key questions about how the aggregator uses the data it collects from agents, brokers, and MLSs through its company Diverse Solutions.

Read more: Seattle Court Unseals Evidence in Move v. Zillow

Zillow’s claim stems from the publication of a letter written by a former vice president of the company, Chris Crocker. In the letter, sent to NAR and Move attorneys, Crocker said the aggregator was using data from its IDX agreements to compare to stolen realtor.com® data in a bid to compete with Move’s ListHub business. When Move and NAR attorneys filed the letter in court and made its contents public, Zillow filed a countersuit, calling the letter false and defamatory but also saying the letter revealed confidential information about “secret” Zillow programs.

Zillow is producing those IDX agreements in the case in a redacted format. But the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Wash., has authorized Move and NAR to preliminarily investigate with MLSs, brokers, and agents just what those data agreements allow and don’t allow Zillow to do. Is Zillow allowed to use the data from those agreements for its own purposes?

Move and NAR’s lawsuit started in 2014 after two high-level Move executives, Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley, resigned to work in industry development for Zillow. Move and NAR filed suit against Samuelson and Zillow, and later Beardsley, charging that the men stole data and tried to cover their tracks by erasing crucial evidence, among other claims. Documents in the case have revealed the defendants ran file deletion programs, physically smashed an external hard-drive, deleted emails and text messages, swapped a clone drive into a Move laptop, and lost a number of thumb drives inserted into Move computers in Samuelson and Beardsley’s final days at Move.

Crocker twice confirmed his allegations that Zillow was using Move information and that, among other things, Zillow "illegally access[es] IDX listing data from the Diverse Solutions sub company . . . to compare against data scraped from realtor.com." Both a sworn and signed declaration, and sworn deposition testimony were recently unsealed by the court. In his letter, Crocker said the purpose of the plan was an assault on Move’s ListHub business. After Samuelson and Beardsley left Move, ListHub remained Zillow's primary source of listing data until that arrangement ended in April 2015.

Throughout the court proceedings, Zillow has refused to provide specific information about its use of IDX data and the scope of its rights to use the data. A December 27 court order authorizes Move and NAR, in response to Zillow's counterclaim, to make inquiries with MLSs, brokers, and agents about their data agreements with Zillow. Specifically, Move and NAR are seeking to find out whether those agreements allow Zillow to compare IDX data with data scraped by Zillow from realtor.com®.

NAR General Counsel Katie Johnson said in late January that the inquiry was underway. The case is scheduled to go the trial in June 2016.

By REALTOR® Magazine