VREAA Removes A Post

VREAA yesterday took the unusual step of removing a prior post and, in the interest of the integrity of the archived record, we thought that we’d share with readers the circumstances that led to that decision.

Recently, unknown individuals stuck posters and stickers up around downtown Vancouver that were obviously designed to warn citizens of a ‘housing bubble’. A reader at vancouvercondo.info reported these to the blogging community (29 Apr 2010). Readers know that at VREAA we are interested in stories that reflect significant activity and sentiment in the Vancouver RE market. We certainly felt that this apparent guerilla campaign was newsworthy, and, in the interest of archiving these images, we posted a note at vancouvercondo.info saying that we’d be interested in any images of this campaign. In response we received two snapshots by e-mail (one of a poster on a lamppost, another of a sticker on a realtor sign).

We posted those two images in a post here at VREAA entitled ‘Bears Take It To The Streets – “Vancouver Housing Bubble Ready To Pop!” Signs In Downtown Core’ (30 Apr 2010). In the comment section of that post, a commenter linked a 3rd image, a snapshot at ‘flickr’, and we added that to the post. A further two relevant images were found on Mike Shedlock’s (‘Mish’s’) very well know financial blog, ‘Global Economic Trend Analysis’. Also in the comment section of our post, on 2 May 2010, a commenter with the handle ‘Vigilante’ posted ‘tinypic.com’ links to what appeared to be the original images for the poster and sticker that had been used in the campaign.

Yesterday, 3 May 2010, vreaa received an e-mail from a local realtor who had initially assumed that the campaign originated from this site (VREAA) and threated legal action for “defacing company property”. In response, we immediately removed the links to the images from ‘Vigilante’s comment. In an e-mail to the realtor, we clarified that VREAA was not the source of these images nor of this campaign. In a second e-mail, the realtor claimed that “[in] displaying such vandalism on your site you are a party to promoting such activities” and requested that we stop posting this kind of promotion of unlawful acts”. They again threatened legal action. In response to the second e-mail we took our original 30 Apr 2010 post down all together. No images related to this story are any longer available from this site.

At VREAA, we do NOT condone or encourage any actions that are unlawful, nor have we ever intended to do so. We archive stories from the Vancouver RE market, at times with commentary. Since February 2008 we have posted over 500 such anecdotes. Our readers know that we believe that the housing market is very overextended and likely to suffer a large correction. Numerous commentators are now in agreement in this regard. Even Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, foresees a “marked weakening in housing”. Nobody has to break the law for this to all play out in that fashion.

-vreaa (vancouver real estate anecdote archivist)

See also:
Discussion Regarding ‘VREAA Removes A Post’ – “Shall we compare the societal damage done by someone with a few stickers in his pocket to the societal damage done by a massive housing bubble?”
VREAA 6 May 2010

48 responses to “VREAA Removes A Post

  1. VREAA please don’t cave in to realtor pressure, you are simply reporting a story, these pictures are part of a story you are reporting, you should re-list the photos and ignore any threats from realtors, they have no legal grounds at all.

  2. Taking it down was a mistake in my opinion. If he would have taken this to court it would have gotten tossed out.

    Giving in to bullies is not really a good way to go about reporting on issues.

    What are you going to do if the next realtor decides that your posts are harming his business? Shut down the entire site?

  3. I’d be interested to know the realtor’s name.

  4. reasonfirst

    I thinks its one of those cases where the complainer actually draws attention to the issue. Love it.

  5. According to this logic, anyone who writes about terrorist attacks is a terrorist or “a party to promoting such activities”.
    Post a picture of WTC going down and you are a terrorist, right?
    Free speech is dead.

  6. Many Franks

    Mish still has his photos up. They’re at http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/05/sunday-funnies-2010-05-02-brown-chip.html if any potential terrorists are curious.

  7. rubberduckie

    This makes me angry. They were entitled to ask you to remove it, as a personal courtesy or whatever.

    But you are within your rights to keep it up!

    Of course, it’s always more comfortable to err on the side of caution, and I don’t blame you one bit for simply taking it down.

    I’m all agitated now. I feel like… defacing something.

  8. Too bad they had to bring in the lawyer thing rather than politely asking to take down the image that they perceived as being offensive.

    As a general principle, I would not work with a party who threatens legal action when a simple explanation of one’s point of view would be sufficient.

    Also, I don’t understand how your first poster image on the telephone pole could in any way be construed as “defacing company property”.

    Thanks for the outstanding blog!

  9. @Mark,
    with respect:
    tread lightly on the legal stuff.
    The individual responsible did deface private property and potentially jeopardized the financial well being of that seller which therein, may have caused harm. Just sayin….

    @VREAA,
    Aside from the above, envisioned is that reputation management is part of this package.

    Guilty via negative advertizing – to be sure, it is a line in the sand.
    Remove post or spend thousands of $$’s and hours in court defending?

    I applaud your wise decision to move on and post another day.

  10. Send the whole story to Vancouver Sun. Cyber bullying.

  11. Absolutely ridiculous to remove the post from the site.

    Reporting news or a factual account of any current event does not constitute promotion of said event.

    I think you should contact a local media outlet to see if they are interested in covering this situation.

  12. Please re-post the pics, nothing to worry about.

    It’d also be good to know the realtor’s name.

    cheers

  13. Cut VREAA some slack. I suspect he doesn’t have the time or $ to take a big legal stand.

    But, since we know that the realtor will be reading this post and comments, I have a message to you:

    Ha Ha! I think you are going to lose your shirt and you will have to go back to working at McDonald’s with your other high school diploma friends. Ha Ha! Go buy another condo, realtor.

  14. I am deeply disgusted.

    If you have text which encourages people toward vandalism, you might be held liable. Also, last I’d heard, the question of moderating site’s comments was still in some debate. I’d walk cautiously.

    HOWEVER. Photojournalism recording vandalism is not incitement to vandalize. Ridiculous. I have a coffee table book that contains photo-journalistic images of tagged New York subway trains and it’s incited no behaviour in me.

    By this premise we should ask you to take down any pictures you might have on the site of construction. You know. Just in case it incites one of us to build a (leaking) (ugly) tower. *laughing*.

    I would also like to know what realtor asked. I will be sure to avoid giving him or her my business. It seems to me that an honest person making an honest, non bullying request would be happy to sign their name to their lawyer’s actions.

  15. this makes me want to go out and put up some flyers — the more people do this the better!

  16. Best place on meth

    Big mistake giving in to bullies.

    Reporting something does not make you an accomplice, otherwise the MSM would be guilty of every crime they ever reported on.

    You should call their bluff, you could always take it down if they do get lawyers involved but I doubt they have the guts.

  17. Oh, and one more thing. While it is likely vandalism to put a sticker on someone’s sign, I doubt you should get much sympathy for this ‘damage’.

    Shall we compare the societal damage done by someone with a few stickers in his pocket to the societal damage done by a massive housing bubble? If the first is an ounce, the second is an ocean.

  18. Oh, but if VREAA chooses to not put the pics up again I completely understand: a nuisance suit is still a nuisance suit! Who has time for the hassle?

    It’s still shameful behaviour on the part of the realtor.

    Fortunately, it doesn’t matter. Vigilantes may stop sticking things on realtor signs, but there ain’t nothin’ going to scrape the writing off the wall.

  19. Humm. My previous post did not go through it seems.

    Anyways, I am unimpressed with anybody who brings lawyers into the picture when simply politely pointing out one’s concerns with an image could accomplish the same effect. I would certainly avoid hiring a party who is so quick to jump to their lawyers.

    It is hard to imagine how VREAA’s picture could affect the market value of a house. But if were VREAA I’d also take down the relevant image. Know when to pick your battles.

    I don’t see how the telephone pole image could be “defacing company property” though. Unless you were contacted by Telus, LOL.

    You got a GREAT blog. Keep it coming!

  20. Hey Leon. You know that tingle you’re feeling as you read these posts? You might think it’s anger. But it’s not. It’s fear. Somewhere inside you, perhaps deep deep down, you know we’re right. Or, at least, you fear that we’re right.

  21. Reminds me of this article I just read:

    http://www.pdnpulse.com/2010/05/la-photographer-faces-criminal-charges-appeals-for-help.html

    Pretty ridiculous that you caved into the realtor’s demands though.

  22. Over at vancouvercondo.info, there has been speculation as to which realtor may have sent VREAA the e-mails. For the record, the realtor who sent the e-mail was not ‘Leon Beauregard’, nor was it any of the realtors whose signs appeared in the images on my site.

  23. “Pretty ridiculous that you caved into the realtor’s demands though.”

    Says an anonymous guy on the internet.

    Let he without anonymity cast the first stone.

  24. Step 1: call the Vancouver Sun and the CBC and report this. It’s a great story and will get covered.

    Step 2: contact BC civil liberties association and get a quote or two for the press. Bloggers should not need to fear the cost of legal action simply for providing news coverage.

    Step 3: publish a PDF that everyone can print and stick up in LEGAL postering locations.

  25. Funny thing is that I hadn’t even noticed the story until now. Nothing like an over-reaction to give a story legs! Why a reactor who is unrelated to the parties in the photos would care enough to involve lawyers doesn’t make much sense to me. Hard to see how a claim for damages could be made. Still, I completely understand VREAA’s position. Choose your battles… Moreover, why fight a party who is shooting himself in the foot by overreacting?

  26. While it’s shocking to see a blogger harassed I actually think for the VREAA it makes a very interesting data point. If you want a measure of what the sentiment and a big part of the narrative around real-estate in this town it’s kind of all condensed into this one little event.

    Although I did take one of the pictures that may have gotten the attention I personally don’t agree with the stickers on the sign and find it a bit over the line.

    But this is nowhere near as questionable as the bulling of a blogger for reporting on such an event.

  27. @Larry,

    I read your blog often, and you seem like a very intelligent guy, so I appreciate what you have to say.

    I am not disagreeing with you that the actual act of placing the sticker on the sign was vandalism, or that if I were the seller of the property in question I would be rightly concerned about the potentail financial fallout. I get all that.

    However, in merely posting pictures of the sign in question, I fail to see how VREAA could be held culpable for the assertion that he/she is in any way a party to promoting vandalism, which appears to be the realtor’s main premise. Also, if the realtor whose name is on the sign is not the one who threatened the lawsuit, could you explain how VREAA is “guilty via negative advertising” in this instance?

    Much appreciated.

  28. I would get some legal advice. you did nothing except report the news that a miscreant had defaced private property.
    to the realtor:
    dumb move , I think that you can assume you are all about to get ‘postered’ now.
    I am sure your fellow re sales persons really apreciate your gesture on their behalf.
    what a maroon…..

  29. reasonfirst // 4 May 2010 at 8:11 am |

    Am I right or what? LOL

  30. VREAA – your blog, absolutely your call.

    But how about publishing the actual word that he/she wrote so we can ridicule him/her more?

  31. Christ, what an asshole.

    (Went to Mish’s site to see the “vandalism”. Pretty weak sauce to get your knickers all tangled up over.)

  32. vreaa: time to move on. Be sure to always post based on the facts, with context of the laws of the land provided if necessary.

    The “certified bubble pricing” signs are funny but IMO not much more than a fraternity prank, save that it has a worthy social/political message.

    I’d throw this story to some local guerrilla political messaging blogs and let them take it from here. They are much more able to handle and repel legal threats and have a much larger readership than the local Vancouver bear blogs.

  33. Vacnouver_Bear

    Realturds are not just frightened….they are terrified. But they have nothing to worry about…..McDoughnalds and Mall-wart are always hiring.

  34. If I was a realturd I would be protecting the gravy train at all costs as well. I mean what else would I do? There really are’nt any job postings for unscrupulous, immoral, lazy liars these days.

  35. Remember, kids: the Google cache is your friend.
    [Link removed by editor. Kindly refrain from linking any of the relevant images in comments to this site. Thanks. -vreaa]

  36. Threatening someone with legal action, and actually hiring a lawyer to initiate legal action are two seperate things.

    I wouldn’t worry about a blowhard realtor in your situation, but you might consider getting legal advice. I’m reasonably sure that threatening someone with legal action is some form of minor offense by itself (vexatious proceedings perhaps?).

  37. The real estate agent would have to prove he suffered financial loss in a court of law. If the real estate signs are on public property (eg. sidewalk, median, etc.) then pics of them are no different than spraypaint on the side of a building.

    Someone should re-post them up on flickr and link up with tiny.url

  38. Just in the interest of improving peoples web literacy, I am going to as a purely hypothetical exercise explain how to use Google to obtain certain information that certain powers wish to have suppressed. I have every expectation that all visitors here understand and respect the right of the un-named realtor to use the threat of the courts to intimidate bloggers into removing free speech that they don’t happen to like, and would not dream of actually following the example.

    [Describes method here -ed.]
    Above given only as an example of how to use Google cache, not meant to be followed in this case. (My lawyer told me to add that.) I hope this is vague enough and buried in the comments enough to not get the esteemed VREAA in any trouble.
    Way back machine should also have it, but not for a few months.

    This whole thing reminds me of a case in England where a newspaper printed a story that read in part
    Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

    The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

    http://tinyurl.com/yjlgm4l

  39. If anyone wants more details on the above-linked Kafkaesque story, it involved a sordid saga of illegal toxic waste dumping in Africa by a company called Trafigura. Wikileaks is a whistleblower site that has the full details.
    Ooh, the power of the internet to expose stuff TPTB don’t want you to know about!

  40. 100% agree with Larry; its not worth the trouble in this instance. Kind of a funny correlation with 2008 when VCI was threatened.

  41. The situation where the request/demand to stop talking about something actually increases public interest in the topic is known as “The Streisand Effect” after a threat from the singer to a photographer who wanted to publish a collection of coastal photos that included Streisand’s home. Pretty famous case. She lost, I believe, but in lots more than the legal case.

  42. A couple of thoughts from a bear:

    1) putting stickers on the realtors sign is stupid and doesn’t help anyone nor change anything
    2) caving in and pulling the story is a total joke on your part and only validates the realtors misconception that vreaa was involved. A newsworthy picture was taken of a public sign and you posted it. No big deal.
    3) I think someone threatening to take legal action against you should be named. Again, it’s newsworthy and readers of the site would want to know.

  43. Gimme Shelter

    No legal basis whatsoever. It’s newsworthy. End of story. You’re not complicit in murder because you show a picture of the crime scene on your website.

    I am sure there are many MANY lawyers in this city that would love to challenge this threatened law suit.

  44. Vacnouver_Bear

    Bring the post back! And name of the realturd, we all want to know who is who!

  45. The post is back! Sorta. At least the pictures are.
    Rob Chipman likes the idea of free speech, even if he disagrees with the method and message. I can respect that.
    http://tinyurl.com/2anesle

  46. Let’s now close comments on this thread.

    For further discussion, see HERE.

  47. Pingback: Discussion Regarding ‘VREAA Removes A Post’ – “Shall we compare the societal damage done by someone with a few stickers in his pocket to the societal damage done by a massive housing bubble?” « Vancouver Real Estate Ane

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