Mar 1, 2009

Corporate Psychopathy


LARGE IMAGE OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW

Entitled A north-easterly aspect of Lyttelton from near the Oil Wharf, this is an image by a local photographer.

This photograph was stolen and published by Harcourts Group Ltd for the specific purpose of making a commercial profit or gain; namely, to promote sales of the Fitzroy Head residential subdivision.


LARGE IMAGE OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW

In deliberate infringement of New Zealand’s Copyright Act, the photograph appeared in a double page advertisement of issue 506 of the Bluebook Canterbury magazine. It was also used on twelve pages of four separate web sites (one of which, Harcourts proclaim, receives more than half a million views each month).


LARGE IMAGE OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW

In late 2008, Bryan John Thomson, CEO of the Riccarton, Christchurch based Harcourts Group was asked by the amateur photographer to address the matter of this theft of intellectual property. He responded with the assurance that "this matter will be addressed in the appropriate manner."

With no subsequent communication, Thomson's interpretation of an appropriate manner might appear to constitute ignoring a criminal offence punishable by substantial fines and a lengthy custodial sentence.

Perception IS NOT Reality is the title of Thomson's latest blog post. In view of the foregoing it could seem that the chief executive of the New Zealand’s largest real estate group's personal perception of legal responsibility may be overdue for a reality check.


LARGE IMAGE OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW

Now an international conglomerate in an industry whose ethics are reputedly perceived by New Zealanders with less than favour, the Harcourts Group is currently part of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World global network of nearly 700 real estate companies with 5,500 offices and 170,000 sales associates in 38 countries.

8 comments:

Jayne said...

WHOA!
If I can't take someone's property without permission, and Joe Blow down the street can't take someone's property without permission, then what makes this guy think he can take someone's property without permission?!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thomson is a big-wheel businessman and it's only white-collar crime.

So in spite of New Zealand's draconian copyright legislation, beyond the political posturing, there would appear to be no real interest in enforcing copyright law.

Accordingly, the amateur photographer would be obliged to pursue his rights in a civil court, where he would be unable to match the resources available to a multi-national conglomerate.

kuaka said...

At least as presented in the news media, under the new legislation said amateur photographer could at least ask ISP of said Harcourts web pages to remove the infringed works.

An attorney's "cease and desist" letter may be a relatively inexpensive option for the copyright holder compared to litigation. Here in the US, lawyers are firing them off all the time. They have some effect in getting infringers to take down copyrighted material quickly. The sound of litigators sharpening their pens is often the motivation.

Since it is a widely held view that real estate agents have little honour (they regularly poll among least respected of occupations in surveys), perhaps it is too much to expect that they should show any shame.

Pure laziness that this guy couldn't send someone out with a point & shoot camera to take a pic.

kuaka said...

At least as presented in the news media, under the new legislation said amateur photographer could at least ask ISP of said Harcourts web pages to remove the infringed works.

An attorney's "cease and desist" letter may be a relatively inexpensive option for the copyright holder compared to litigation. Here in the US, lawyers are firing them off all the time. They have some effect in getting infringers to take down copyrighted material quickly. The sound of litigators sharpening their pens is often the motivation.

Since it is a widely held view that real estate agents have little honour (they regularly poll among least respected of occupations in surveys), perhaps it is too much to expect that they should show any shame.

Pure laziness that this guy couldn't send someone out with a point & shoot camera to take a pic.

Sarndra said...

Good to see this is still being persued.....

Canterbury Heritage said...

If the contoversial Section 92A of the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994 were invoked then LayerX Limited as the Internet service provider to Property Page (NZ) Limited in respect of the Internet site realestate.co.nz would be obliged to terminate that account, as a consequence of the repeated infringements of the copyright. (Thomson is also a board member of Property Page (NZ) Ltd). However, that company is also in breach of section 7.2 of LayerX Limited's Terms and Conditions (The client must ensure that the hosted content does not infringe any third party intellectual property right or any law, standards, content requirements or applicable codes of conduct).

In the case of the Harcourts Group web site the invocation of Section 92A would appear difficult as the Domain Name Commission records indicate that Harcourts are their own Internet service provider. However, this example of deliberate and repeated infringement of the copyright is a good argument in support of the government implementing the Section 92 amendments to the Copyright Act.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to the photographer! Every now and then the little guy does win.

Canterbury Heritage said...

In the course of researching this article it was noted that Copyright Licensing Ltd. of Auckland proclaimed on their web site that "CLL may act on your behalf to protect your rights by following up on reported infringements of your copyright and taking action if it is necessary or advisable..."

However, when approached by the photographer, Kathy Sheat, Chief Executive Officer of that company (and Secretary of the Copyright Council of NZ), declined any assistance. The impression gained from further research appeared to indicate that Copyright Licensing Ltd was little more than a tax-payer subsidised vanity publishing collective, with no taste for taking on a company with 600 offices, 5,500 staff and sales in excess of $19.5 billion last year.

Accordingly, unable to match Harcourts vast resources in pursuing civil litigation, the little guy needed some help. We therefore disseminate this matter in the court of public opinion.