Rival Claims Christie’s Stole Data by the Millions

DALLAS (CN) — A Dallas auction house sued its giant rival Christie’s on Friday, claiming Christie’s new searchable database of auction results includes millions of listings stolen from Heritage Auctions.

Heritage Auctions sued London-based Christie’s and its subsidiary Collectrium in Federal Court over Christie’s recent invitation to customers to sign up for the Collectrium Market Data Beta.

Heritage says Christie’s touted the “exceptional tool” and proprietary database as having more than 7 million sales results.

However, “The only thing ‘exceptional’ about the content on Christie’s Collectrium site is the manner in which Christie’s compiled it, namely through the surreptitious and unlawful theft of huge volumes of plaintiffs’ proprietary and copyrighted auction data, photographs and text from plaintiffs’ servers,” the complaint states.

“As of the filing of this complaint approximately 2.7 million of the 11+ million listings on defendants’ site were stolen from plaintiffs. Christie’s is using Collectrium to sell plaintiffs’ original, copyrighted material as Christie’s own, and to divert customers from plaintiffs, misleading collectors into thinking Christie’s is knowledgeable and experienced in auction categories in which plaintiffs, in fact, are the clear marketplace leader.”

Heritage claims the data theft is particularly harmful because the “centerpiece” of its website is the original content of photographs and item summaries that provide “history and provenance” for sale items.

“This compilation of visual and textual content for millions of individual items provides HA.com users with a unique experience and is central to Heritage’s business,” the complaint states.

Heritage says Christie’s used a spider to use 31 accounts to get access to 5 million pages on its website.

“Upon information and belief, defendants are continuing to scrape HA.com, having posted stolen Heritage content and recently as November 19, 2016,” the complaint states. “Defendant’s use of multiple fake accounts and IP randomization have frustrated Heritage’s efforts to identify, and block, defendants’ scraping activity.”

Christie’s declined comment since it hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit.

Heritage seeks actual and punitive damages for copyright infringement, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, trespass, unfair competition, civil conspiracy and breach of contract.

It also wants an injunction to stop the alleged data thefts and wants Collectrium shut down until the stolen content has been removed.

It is represented by Mark Bayer with Barnes Thornburg in Dallas and Armen Vartian in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

This is not the first time Heritage has sued Christie’s. In June 2014 it demanded $60 million in New York County Supreme Court, claiming it was the victim of a “raid of its entire management” in the field of high-demand, expensive handbags.