Estately's Galen Ward

Earlier this week, we told you the story about Estately sending a cease-and-desist letter to one of Canada’s largest real estate companies, alleging that Sutton West Coast essentially ripped off code, images and design elements in creating its new Web site. The story attracted a lot of attention, in part because Sutton West Coast’s site appeared to be an exact replica of Estately.

Shortly after our story ran Sutton West Coast’s real estate search site was taken down, with this short “maintenance notice” suggesting that search updates are in the works:

“Wow! Your timing is impeccable. We are bringing you a whole new suttonwestcoast web experience and currently have the search portion of our website offline for updates.”

Now, Estately CEO Galen Ward is offering a bit more detail on the hurdles he’s run into dealing with Sutton West Coast, explaining how he used a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice to get the company’s attention. He writes in a blog post that they are not yet in the clear, pointing out that Sutton West Coast could move servers to a location outside the reach of U.S. law.

But Ward said he’s become a believer in the DMCA, an instrument he admits that he never thought he’d have to use.

“The DMCA allowed us to protect our IP and get back to work building Estately,” writes Ward, adding that “no startup wants a clone of their front-end intensive website floating around out there.”

He continues:

The DMCA is the only law I know that operates at startup speed: Amazon responded within 36 hours and took down the infringing materials.

The DMCA isn’t a panacea (some parts are horrible), but it has some real strengths that level the playing field for startups and make running a business efficient. In particular:

  • Accessibility: We filed a DMCA takedown notice with just one or two hours of work. Attorneys are optional. In a DMCA-free world, our IP could have continued floating around for weeks before a court would hear us and we would need to spend thousands of dollars on attorneys leading up to that point.
  • Speed: Big companies can bury a startup like Estately in paperwork and distractions and can run up a big legal bill in advance of a judgement. Distraction is bad for big companies, but it can kill a startup. The speed of the DMCA means we can get back to work building a business.

The law is supposed to create a level playing field and good law should be clear enough that court cases should be safe and rare. The DMCA passes that test with flying colors.

Meanwhile, as we showed earlier this week, here’s a comparison of the two sites:

And here’s what Sutton West Coast’s search results looked like earlier this week:

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  • @CascadeRam

    I’m glad to see that DMCA is effective and that Estately was able to put it to good use.

    Too often, many people in the tech world attack the notion of copyrights
    and suggest that everything should be free for reuse (based on the
    notion that copying isn’t “theft” and shouldn’t be illegal because the
    original wasn’t removed).

    I hope these people realize that copyright violations hurt all creators
    (including tech companies) and that the hurt isn’t just limited to
    book-authors, movie-creators etc.

  • Guest

    Thank you to Canada for respecting Seattle’s startups’ ownership.

  • wcg

    Sure this might be an obvious rip off but I can’t see justifying all the bad things about the DMCA because of one good use of it. Having it apply outside the US is also disturbing since this extends its potential abuse beyond the US simply by the fact a company is using a .COM IP address.

    This begs the question on how did Sutton West Coast get all of the source and backend software to duplicate this effort? This goes deeper than a look-and-feel copy. Did Estately engage with Sutton in the past? Is this a breach of contract rather than a copyright issue? I’m throwing these out there since it just might be the case that in desperation Estately used the DMCA to deal with a legal issue that may not have been copyright infringement.

  • Dennis Nilsson

    If you want to protect your “intellectual property”, don’t publicize it, don’t write it, don’t talk about it. Keep it for yourself.

    The foundation of Internet is the reuse of works by people before you.

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