Zillow casts McMansion Hell site into cease-and-desist limbo

The popular how-not-to-do-architecture Tumblr received a cease-and-desist from the house hunting site for using its photos.

Lori Grunin
Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
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2 min read

After receiving a cease-and-desist from real estate site Zillow, the owner of the McMansion Hell Tumblr has taken its mcmansionhell.com site down temporarily for the arduous task of backing it up before the legal party begins, and took to Twitter to explain and seek advice. Zillow claims the site violated its terms of use by using Zillow's house shots as comical examples for teachable moments in architecture. 

In addition to the statement above, Bad House Tweeter posted the letter.

The site is slated to return after the backup, probably the evening of June 27. 

Update, 12:09 p.m. PT: Zillow responded to a request for comment, supplying "a copy of the letter we sent to Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell this afternoon, from Katie Curnutte, our VP of Communications and Public Affairs." The text provided was as follows: 

Dear Kate, 

Over the past day, we've had a lot of questions from the media about the cease and desist our legal team sent to you. I understand why - your blog is well-loved by its many fans.

I wanted to write to both thank you for taking down the photos, but also to give you a little bit of context around the request.

Mostly, though, I want to stress that we do not want you to take down your blog. We hope you will be able to resume your writing and find other sources for photos.

As for why we requested you remove the photos from Zillow - we do not own the rights to many of the photos on our site, and therefore can't give permission for third parties, such as yourself, to take the photos from our website for any purpose. We get them from brokerages and MLSs who are advertising homes for sale and through those agreements we have an obligation to protect the interest of the copyright holders who license the images to Zillow.

We are happy to answer any questions about this, and I sincerely hope you are able to find other sources for photos.

Katie Curnutte