This statement just came over from Zillow. The real estate search giant says it won’t pursue legal action against Kate Wagner and the McMansion Hell blog, but Wagner agrees not to use Zillow photos moving forward. 

“It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down” they say. Well, when a billion dollar company threatens you with a cease and desist, think you just keep on publishing? 

Bad PR move on Zillow to send Wagner that letter. Good move to send out this notice.

Hello, please see below for a statement from Zillow.

We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won’t use photos from Zillow moving forward.

It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate’s freedom of expression. We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners – the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients’ homes.  

Emily

EMILY HEFFTER 
Public Relations Manager 

P 206.757.4439 
M 206.850.5970 

 @EmilyHeffter

Update, 6/29: I know what it feels like to be legally bullied, and it is scary as hell. I have just heard that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) is now helping Ms. Wagner! 

If you have wondered what has happened to the hilarious and often irreverent blog, “McMansion Hell,” that we have linked to on a few occasions, you’ll have to wait for the book*. McMansion Hell temporarily shut down after the founder, a 23-year old grad student at Johns Hopkins, got a cease and desist letter from none other than Zillow!

On Monday, Kate Wagner, a John Hopkins grad student focusing on architectural acoustics, found herself staring down the legal letterhead of a cease and desist order. In her spare time, she runs a popular blog, McMansion Hell, which skewers the trend of mass-produced suburban mansions. Posts on the site featured promotional shots with amenities like “doors to nowhere” and “compulsory chandeliers.” Real estate aggregator Zillow was not happy when it noticed she was using photos from its site. Wagner posted a picture of the order to her Twitter account and has since taken down the site while she seeks legal counsel.

Wagner started the blog just last year, and amid the ever-escalating obsession of Americans with real estate, it has grown and proliferated and been featured/linked to from many huge eyeball-reading sites such as Business Insider, The Independent, and Huffington Post.  Our tag line, for example, is “The people who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt.” Wagner’s is “If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you’ve come to the right place.”

McMansion Hell was a cleverly written blog that mixed sarcasm, internet/millennial lingo, and erudition into commentary all superimposed digitally onto real estate listing photos; sometime the front of a house, often the interiors. There was copy, too.  She created a whole section of homes that are “Certified Dank™” (Texas has 3), her collection of the worst of the worst or “fugly”. Knowing how long and hard we work here at CandysDirt.com to produce quality content, I am sure Kate spent hours upon hours at her laptop.

Alas, many Texas homes have been featured on the site.

It is interesting that Zillow, arguably the biggest, most popular and influential real estate website on the planet, sent the cease-and-desist to someone making $22,000 off her blog. Because Zillow makes all its revenue and builds its business model off of using photos provided to it for free from MLS feeds across the country.

Of course, it has permission to do so, which is Zillow’s “rational” for the cease and desist:

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4504 Tour 18 FM ext

Surely you have read the blog, “McMansion Hell”? If not, here you go. The author (who must be an architect) says

McMansion Hell aims to educate the masses about architectural concepts, urban planning, environmentalism and history by making examples out of the places we love to hate the most: the suburbs.

By alternating comedy-oriented takedowns of individual houses with weekly informative essays about urbanism, architecture, sociology, and interior design, McMansionHell hopes to open readers’ eyes to the world around them, and inspire them to make it a better one.

We understand. (We also think he’s kind of snarky.) But we also hope McMansion Hell doesn’t look too closely at North Texas. The home they chose to rip apart recently is 4504 Tour 18 Drive in Flower Mound for $829,900. It’s listed with Jim Streigel of Coldwell Banker. Listing date: 3/16/2016. It was built in 1994, is on 2 acres in a golf course community, and the price has already been reduced to $829,000 from $939,900. Wow. High hopes.

But really, honestly, what does a real estate agent do with stuff like this???4504 Tour 18 doorway (more…)