Singapore

PropertyGuru, 99.co tussle over copyright infringement

PropertyGuru filed three claims against 99.co, which has filed a counterclaim


Singapore's biggest property listings portal PropertyGuru has sued its rival 99.co over alleged copyright infringement, accusing the latter of reproducing content from its website without permission.

Yesterday marked the start of the six-day trial, which is being watched for its implications on who owns the copyright of content uploaded onto online platforms.

At issue in the ongoing case is the use of a third-party digital app called Xpressor, which lets property agents post listings across multiple portals - resulting in several listings on 99.co bearing PropertyGuru's watermark.

PropertyGuru, which was founded here in 2007 by Finn  Jani Rautiainen and Briton Steve Melhuish, is said to have the business of half the 28,000 licensed agents in Singapore.

99.co, a relative newcomer, was set up in 2014 by entrepreneur Darius Cheung and counts Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin among its backers.

PropertyGuru filed three claims against 99.co.

First, it alleges, 99.co had breached a previous settlement agreement made in September 2015. It "substiantially reproduced and continues to reproduce" content from its website, said PropertyGuru.

It is also accusing 99.co of infringing its copyright by reproducing photographs bearing the PropertyGuru watermark on 99.co's website.

The final claim is that 99.co had caused property agents to breach PropertyGuru's rules about content on its website, by encouraging them to sign up with Xpressor to copy their listings from PropertyGuru onto 99.co's website.

According to PropertyGuru's Acceptable Use Policy, agents cannot reproduce, display or provide access to the PropertyGuru website on another website.

99.co has denied the claims and has filed a counterclaim against PropertyGuru for "groundless threats" of copyright infringement.

99.co argues that agents were "exercising their own copyright" in using Xpressor to post listings across multiple websites.

It is also saying that it has not reproduced PropertyGuru's photographs; rather, agents themselves have done so by using Xpressor.

Yesterday, PropertyGuru's managing director, Mr Rautiainen, took the stand.

He was cross-examined by 99.co's lawyer Koh Chia Ling.

Mr Koh sought to establish that the act of resizing or putting a watermark on an agent's photograph does not give PropertyGuru copyright over the new image.

But Mr Rautiainen disagreed, citing a "high level technical process" that allows agents' original photos to be adjusted, pixelated, resized, then have a watermark imprinted on them.

He also said that the only available alternative site for Xpressor to cross-post listings to was 99.co.

Currently, other sites that PropertyGuru listings could be posted on include SRX Property and The Edge Property.

Listings found on these sites can often be found on PropertyGuru as well.
But when questioned by Mr Koh, he added that there was never any infringement of copyright by Xpressor's parent company, Media Publishing Group.

The trial continues today.

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