The weekend witnessed a spat between popular restaurant guides, Zomato and Burrp, with the former alleging that Burrp was copying listings data from its website including proprietary data points such as location co-ordinates. Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal, in his blog post, also included screen-shots of Burrp pages.

The evidence: pages from Burrp featured a custom phone number originally allocated by Zomato to facilitate table bookings, of which even the restaurant staff is not aware of.

The post also linked to the Linkedin profile of a Burrp employee who had added the listing, to show that it was not a user submitted listing. Zomato has also mentioned that Burrp’s listing included the same GPS coordinates for the restaurant, until the 5th decimal point, which a user is unlikely to submit along with the listing.

Zomato also adds that there have been similar instances in the past, and on informing Burrp, the response that they received was that these were user uploads.

Burrp’s side of the story

In a response to Zomato’s blog post, Burrp also posted one on its own blog, defending the accusation. It said that the request to add the business listing came via an email and that Burrp added details verbatim, in good faith. Further, it says that the phone number mentioned in the listing should have carried an extension number, without which it doesn’t connect to the business. So, if it was to copy the number, it did not make sense to leave the extension.

Burrp alleges that Zomato is the one which copied features from Burrp, is poaching Burrp employees from sales and content, and is putting fake reviews of  un-reviewed business and submitting them to Google. Burrp did not include any evidence in the post, to substantiate these counter-allegations.

Our Take

– For any local listings aggregator, listings are a vital asset which drive traffic to the website. These sites generate money form paid listings, which are in turn-dependent on traffic generated through search. So, even if it’s a question of a handful of listings, a local search business can not ignore it.

– User Generated content is a major liability for content players, and if it has a major role to play in the functioning of the business, it must be well moderated. There is no place for ‘good faith’ when you are susceptible to getting sued for copyright violation.

Nikhil adds: Under India’s new IT Rules, Burrp can be held liable for these listings for copyright violation, if it does not take them down on being notified by Zomato, or vice versa. If either of them refuses to comply with the request, the plaintiff can take the matter to court. Remember that previously, Cleartrip has also been accused of data theft.

– Zomato substantiated their accusations with proof, including screen-shots and links.  Burrp defended the accusations, but did not cite any proof. Why didn’t it include a screen shot of Zomato’s alleged fake reviews on Google?

– It seems like this was not just a one-off incident and Karthick Gopal earlier tweeted a picture (via Gautam John) of a restaurant menu with Zomato’s watermark being used on Burrp. Pluggd.in also published some listings from Burrp and Google, which featured the same Zomato phone number.

– On poaching employees, Deepinder Goyal replied to my tweet saying that Burrp has a high attrition rate and Zomato hired some of their best people. In any competitive industry, this is a normal practice, and in contrast with copyright violation, isn’t illegal. Note that there is no explicit allegation of database theft by Burrp. Readers should keep in mind that JustDial had sued Burrp’s sister company AskMe of database theft.