SINGAPORE - The High Court has dismissed property listing portal PropertyGuru's claims that rival 99.co had infringed its copyright by reproducing photos bearing the PropertyGuru watermark on the latter's website without permission.
These photos were first uploaded on the PropertyGuru website by property agents, and were edited to bear the PropertyGuru watermark. Some of these photos were transferred to the 99.co website using a third-party app.
In her judgment on Friday (March 9), Justice Hoo Sheau Peng said the copying, enlargement or resizing of an artistic work does not make the resulting image a copyrighted work.
She added: "The addition of the watermark does not, in my judgment make the altered image an original work."
Justice Hoo also threw out PropertyGuru's claims that 99.co had induced property agents to breach their contracts, as well as 99.co's counterclaim that PropertyGuru had made groundless threats.
In a blog post, 99.co founder and chief executive Darius Cheung called the judgment a "victory for the Internet", noting that it was "common sense" that the rights of a photo should ultimately still belong to the user.
However, Justice Hoo ruled in favour of PropertyGuru on a claim that 99.co had breached a 2015 settlement agreement, by “substantially reproducing” one listing with nine photographs from the PropertyGuru website onto the 99.co one.
She granted an injunction to restrain 99.co from continuing to breach the terms of the agreement by using the third-party service, and gave 99.co 30 days to stop using the app.
PropertyGuru has been given the right to assess damages.
Its group executive director Jani Rautiainen said the verdict “sends a strong message about fair play and good business ethics”.
“If a business takes an unfair shortcut and breaks the rules, it should be held to account for it,” he said.