Docket Number: 22-35147
Judge: McKeown
Opinion Date: June 7, 2023

Thousands of copyrighted photos on Zillow’s site come from VHT, a professional real estate photography studio. Zillow used VHT’s photos on its real estate “Listing Platform,” which is the primary display of properties, and on a home design section of the website called “Digs.” Following summary judgment rulings, a jury trial, and various post-trial motions, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court in large part in prior appeal Zillow I. Essentially, the panel agreed with the district court that Zillow was not liable for direct, secondary, or contributory infringement.
Back on remand, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision in full. The panel held that the district court properly excused VHT’s failure to meet Section 411(a)’s non-jurisdictional exhaustion requirement because copyright registration was wholly collateral to whether Zillow infringed on VHT’s copyright, dismissing VHT’s claim after the statute of limitations had already expired would cause irreparable harm, and excusal would not undermine the purpose of administrative exhaustion. The panel affirmed the district court’s ruling, on remand, that the 2,700 VHT photos remaining at issue were not a compilation, which would entitle VHT to only a single award of statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. Section 504(c), but rather, each individual photo constituted an infringement. The photos were part of VHT’s master photo database, and the VHT group registered its images as a “compilation.” But VHT also registered the underlying individual images and licensed these images on a per-image or per-property basis. The panel held that the photos had independent economic value separate from the database and did not qualify as “one work.” View “VHT, INC. V. ZILLOW GROUP, INC., ET AL” on Justia Law

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