A real estate listing website accused of copyright breaches received over $1 million in funding from the Federal Government’s news innovation body Commercialisation Australia less than one month ago, it has emerged.
The revelation comes as real estate bodies have attacked AllHomes.com.au for allegedly lifting listings from property sites including RealEstateView.com.au, which is owned by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.
Last week, AllHomes told The Age it had copied listings from other real estate portals and added them to its own site as part of a free trial offering.
Those comments sparked a legal debate. While AllHomes said content was clearly within the public domain, legal experts have challenged that assertion.
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Commercialisation Australia announced on April 16 that AllHomes was one of the first 21 companies to receive money from the new body.
The grant announcement describes AllHomes as “an innovative and information rich portal focused at the wider real estate community” and says the “portal has changed the dynamics of the real estate industry in the ACT”.
“AllHomes has developed a novel data processing system that brings together rich data sets and allows advanced data cross matching to occur, independent of size and complexities.”
However, there are certain requirements attached to this level of funding. The Government states that eligible companies must “be able to demonstrate that they have ownership or beneficial use of the intellectual property necessary to carry out the commercialisation project”.
AllHomes must repay the grant as a percentage of sales income from outcomes of the project, or as a percentage of company profits, depending on its success.
The grant is also designed to help funding activities associated with work necessary for “installing and establishing process, systems and services that enable a new product… to be effectively brought to market”.
Types of eligible expenditure listed by the Government include spending for protecting intellectual copyright, along with contract, plant and prototype expenditure.
Commercialisation Australia chief executive Doron Ben-Meir says he is not able to comment on the specific case of AllHomes, but says CA would step in when a particular site which has received funding breaks terms and conditions.
“Our function is not to get involved. When we invest, we aren’t legally responsible for the company, we are only responsible for any arrangements that we have. They are in control of their own destiny.”
“If they get into trouble and breach the contract with us, then it’s our business. There are various arrangements we have, and when one of those is broken, that’s when we would look at taking action. There is no general answer, we look at each specific instance.”
AllHomes director Timothy White was contacted for comment this morning, but no reply was received before publication.
Intellectual property lawyer Trevor Choy says while lifting listings from other sites could constitute copyright theft, it could be a difficult case to bring before a court.
“For somebody to take action, you need to have some type of damage occur – you need to have suffered a loss. It’s very difficult to argue that from this case, because how do you show that AllHomes has actually caused a real estate site to lose money?”
Meanwhile, the REIV says it will continue to watch the situation as it develops, but admits it is still unsure what to do. Spokesperson Robert Larocca says the organisation is still formulating a stance.
“We are unsure what to do about it, really. I’m aware they have received funding, and the conditions of which Commercialisation Australia can clarify. As we said before, we stand in the company of Rupert Murdoch in terms of protecting content used for other purposes, and we hope it doesn’t occur in the future.”
Meanwhile, the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania told the Launceston Examiner over the weekend there is a legal battle brewing between the entities, and that AllHomes has even threatened to sue the organisation. The REIT was contacted, but no reply was received before publication.