10 Replies Latest reply: Jan 18, 2019 1:53 PM by swlinphx RSS

    Me and Mr. Jones...

    swlinphx Premier Contributor

      Forget that I have been doing this for 14 years including way before HomeAway was HomeAway.  Forget that I am a "Premier Partner" with multiple listings all with an excellent record.  Apparently HomeAway will nevertheless pull any user's listings (all of them) if anyone else (a competitor say) maliciously makes a false claim --and they won't contact or ask or warn you first, not until your listings are offline.

       

      At the resort community where I live and work I have helped several owners in setting up, decorating and photographing their rentals but none as much as "Mr. Jones".  We would chat sometimes daily via e-mail and discuss the business.  He too has multiple properties at this resort but is an absentee owner who rarely interacts with the guests.  Anyway, I've known him for about 15 years (I have lived here on site 24/7/365 for almost 21 years).  We had a falling out a couple years back but he reached out to me again recently when I referred some guests to him.  Since then (a few months ago) we had been having civil and decent and informative discussions via e-mail.

       

      Suddenly he then sends me an email accusing me of using one if his photos of one of the pools here.  This is ludicrous because we both hired the same photographer jointly and I was the one here on site for each shoot (his and my rentals) and the common areas (pool, landscape, mountain, tennis/basketball courts, etc.).  I was flabbergasted at such pettiness on his part.  I have had the same photos for 3 or 4 years since that shoot.  We both paid the photographer but somehow Mr. Jones thinks he owns and has all rights to the exterior photographs if he pays to use them.  However, even the photographer informed me that is not true and that we both paid for our interior shots and resort exteriors to be shot and then to use them.

       

      However, apparently all HomeAway needed was for Mr. Jones to send an e-mail about claiming a DMCA violation that I was using one of his photos (and why just one since we had several exteriors done that I am using and have been for years now -- again, this probably has nothing to do with the photo(s).

       

      Despite my good standing, how can HomeAway pull all of my listings based on one baseless allegation without taking 5 minutes to reach out and call me?  That very day I produced a statement from the photographer proving my point and also visual proof I've had those photos as long as Mr. Jones has.  I was told if I remove the photo in question all my listings would be restored, but it was the principle of the matter to me so I held out a few days.  Now, even though they have proof the claim was bogus, and that I am the target and innocent one here (not the instigator), they say I must jump thru hoops to remove my photo and then wait a couple weeks to see if he decides to sue me in court (love to have him fly from Washington state to Phoenix for court).  How was this allowed to snowball so?  And I have a hard time believing that once a claim is proven bogus the defendant must go thru all these channels to get it restored.  So Homeway can't just, after receiving the evidence, restore my listings (and maybe admonish the complainant -- should have all his listings (many of which I set up for him) pulled a couple days to prevent him from doing this again in the future). What am I missing here?  Does this sound right to you all?

        • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
          feibus CommunityAmbassador

          It sounds like what happens when they don't have a process in place and someone in CS freaked out.

          • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
            homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

            Hi swlinphx,


            We understand how frustrating a situation like this can be, but we are required to follow the standards of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  We have a set policy and procedure that we apply equally to everyone, regardless of status on the sites.  You can read more about the DMCA here. It's federal law that we are required to observe. Thank you.

             

            Erinn

            HomeAway Community Manager

              • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                ohst8er Senior Contributor

                homeaway_community_manager, Hi Erinn, I don't have a horse in this race but it sounds to me like the OP has no issue with the DMCA, and is ALSO following it.  It sounds like, if the OP is being completely factual with us (and I have no reason to doubt otherwise), that the photographer has given BOTH the OP and "Mr. Jones" the same copyright access to said photos.  As a result, it sounds like, based on the info provided, that CS knee je rk reacted to cover their own "skin" rather than actually gathering facts and taking all info into consideration.

                 

                It sounds like either a) someone needs to reach out to the photographer and have him provide a letter stating they give full DMCA rights to BOTH parties (or have each party submit said letter from photographer), which would result in BOTH PARTIES being allowed to keep the photograph, or b) if VRBO wants to just dig in their heels they should tell BOTH parties they cannot use the photos in question.   I don't usually jump in and critique your response, especially since I am not at all involved here, BUT, if what the OP is telling us is correct they ARE following the DMCA and are being penalized anyway.

                  • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                    feibus CommunityAmbassador

                    Agreed.  DMCA is not supposed to be a hammer if you're following the rules.  That's on the process that takes down someone's whole listing and when presented with contrary evidence takes weeks to return it to visibility.

                    • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                      homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

                      Hi ohst8er,

                       

                      We are not questioning his version of things. We are simply stating that we have to take all contacts regarding possible DMCA seriously and treat each one identically. It is the responsibility of the person bringing the claim and the person the claim is being filed against to provide proof that they are or are not the owner of the copyright of anything that is brought before us. It's not in any way a knee **** reaction, Customer Support is following our guidelines and policies that were created to ensure that HomeAway is complying with federal law.

                       

                      If the OP has given proof that he has rights to the photos, then his listing(s) should be restored. If he wants to make a counter claim, there are procedures for how to do so in the links I provided.  Thank you.

                       

                      Erinn

                      HomeAway Community Manager

                    • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                      swlinphx Premier Contributor

                      We understand how frustrating a situation like this can be, but we are required to follow the standards of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  We have a set policy and procedure that we apply equally to everyone, regardless of status on the sites.  You can read more about the DMCA here. It's federal law that we are required to observe.

                      Thanks for the response Erinn.  But does that strict (guilty-until-proven-innocent) policy prevent you from reaching out to the defendant or even letting them know before you pull multiple listings of a long-time good client?  A couple of the listings you pulled weren't even using that photo, but you just took my entire account offline then informed me later.  This seems like "guilty until proven innocent".

                       

                      Had anyone even bothered to contact me before taking action I would have had the proof and photographer's backup (written and verbal by phone) for you.  I'm sorry but I do not feel this DMCA act requires you to act drastically and immediately without a second to spare to give the unwitting accused party a chance to respond.  You say you need proof but the only "proof" Mr. Jones supplied was that he was sent a link to the photos on Dropbox from the photographer almost four years ago (just like I was) -- something no one is denying.  HE supplied no proof that he owned the copyrights or that no one else paid to use them.  But again, this was done out of malice.  He and I have used many of the same exterior shots for years. He just wanted to be vindictive after a falling out.  He is also litigious by nature.

                    • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                      twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                      I Suppose that it could be that until they know that the letter you received from the photographer is in fact the photographer of that specific photo, then they have to act accordingly. I would just take the picture down and get another one. Do you really want this fight? I get that it is the principle of it, but sometimes you just have to move forward. You can still work towards getting this resolved and perhaps your picture being restored??

                       

                      I Have been in situations where I was beyong a shadow of a doubt right, but to argue further would be more damaging than to just walk away. That old saying “pick your battles” really is something to think about in situations like this.

                        • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                          ohst8er Senior Contributor

                          +1 what twobitrentals said.  I guess it boils down to ...do you want to be right, or do you want to be booked? 

                            • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                              swlinphx Premier Contributor

                              +1 what twobitrentals said.  I guess it boils down to ...do you want to be right, or do you want to be booked?

                              I don't see it that way.  I say if you are (proven) right then you should not suffer either consequence and perhaps the trouble-maker should be the one to have his listings pulled for a couple days (while "under investigation") to keep him from doing this endlessly in the future to me or anyone else.

                               

                              The HomeAway agent in the claims department even agreed with me but says they are bound by law.  I guess I have trouble punishing someone who is innocent and who had no clue or chance to defend themselves before hand.  Think if any of you had all your listings pulled suddenly and without your knowledge simply because a competitor made a "claim".  So does that mean I can now go thru all 40 rentals here and see if anyone is using our photos and (temporarily at least) wipe out all my competition too?  What's to keep any competitor from pulling the same stunt.  Where does it end?

                          • Re: Me and Mr. Jones...
                            calicalling Active Contributor

                            What is most unfair about this is the apparent lack of motivation/speed/drive for HA/VRBO to correct actions they took based on a faulty accusation. It doesn't take days or weeks to authenticate a letter of proof of ownership from the photographer.

                             

                            That said, I doubt that this discussion will change much in how your situation is handled.

                             

                            When my most-lucrative listings were hidden for an A/B test (through no fault of my own, according to HA/VRBO), I learned the hard way not to put all my eggs in any single platform's basket. Providing any entity/platform the ability to crush my business based on a faulty accusation or an AB test is a mistake for any host/owner/manager.

                             

                            I know you are an experienced, diversified, successful host, so I'm probably preaching to the choir on this. More like commiserating, I guess.