How Far Does Zoocasa Reach?

The BC Supreme Court’s decision in Century 21 Canada Ltd. Partnership v. Rogers Communication Inc., [2011] BCJ No. 1679 is a fascinating case, full of issues that can affect ISP’s, online content providers, and users. It is the secondary arguments, however, that raise the most questions.

In brief, Zoocasa ran a site that pulled real estate listings from others, including a Century 21 website. Century 21 sued, claiming breach of contract through unauthorized use, and was successful.

A couple of minor issues are very interesting, though. For instance, the court suggested that an assignment of future copyrights might not be permitted, because the property didn’t exist yet. The case did not turn on this point, and there are conflicting cases on the issue, so it remains to be seen whether this view will stand.

Even more significantly, Century 21 argued that unauthorized access to its servers was the same as physical trespass onto property. This claim was dismissed, since Century 21 used another host’s servers and did not own them itself. If it had owned them, however, would trespass apply? That remedy would be an important additional weapon for content providers.

These issues will keep lawyers talking for some time, bu they are genuinely important in practice. The ease of copying on the internet guarantees that this will continue to be an issue. Content owners will look for every remedy they can find to protect themselves, and Zoocasa could be a turning point in how far that will extend.