Zillow Backs Down From a Legal Fight With McMansion Hell

Another blow against Pringles Cans of Shame everywhere. Image via Getty.
Another blow against Pringles Cans of Shame everywhere. Image via Getty.

Zillow has released a statement saying they won’t take any legal action against the blog McMansion Hell, after much bad publicity and the involvement of the the Electronic Frontier Foundation on its creator’s behalf.


Earlier this week, Kate Wagner, who runs the blog—a very entertainingly delivered form of architectural criticism, where she annotates photos of houses—received a strongly worded cease and desist letter from the real estate aggregator. It was a blend of copyright warning (despite the fact that Zillow is not the copyright holder for the photos in question) and also made ominous mention of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The Electronic Freedom Frontier, a digital rights organization dedicated to things like advocating for fair use and pushing back on overly broad applications of the CFAA, jumped to Wagner’s assistance and earlier today, they released a response to the company. Their letter opened:

I write in response to Zillow’s letter of June 26, 2017 regarding the website mcmansionhell.com (“McMansion Hell”). The Electronic Frontier Foundation represents Kate Wagner, who created this site to comment on contemporary residential architecture. In the letter, Zillow demands that all images sourced from Zillow be removed from the site, alluding to various purported claims under contract, copyright, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Our client has no obligation to, and thus will not, comply with Zillow’s demands. Zillow’s legal threats are not supported and plainly seek to interfere with protected speech.

And now Zillow has released a statement backing down:

We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won’t use photos from Zillow moving forward.

It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate’s freedom of expression. We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners – the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients’ homes.


Wagner responded to the news on Twitter:

Senior Editor at Jezebel, specializing in books, royals, romance novels, houses, history, and the stories we tell about domesticity and femininity. Resident Windsor expert.



I love McMansion Hell and am thrilled for this news, as well as the news that Zillow won’t be allowed to sue for the use of photographs that they themselves don’t even own. The world made sense today for just a sliver of a second.