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MLSs at risk of losing weapon against data theft

11/07/2017

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CHICAGO — A tool that allows multiple listing services to combat unauthorized use of real estate listing data is at risk. In 2012, when two multiple listing services sued the operator of third-party listing and referral site NeighborCity for alleged copyright infringement, they were able to do so because the U.S. Copyright Office had allowed them to copyright their MLS databases. After a two-year legal battle, NeighborCity was forced to remove listing photos from its website and now no longer exists. But the U.S. Copyright Office is questioning the automated database copyright registrations it has granted to MLSs for decades. These copyright registrations protect the arrangement, selection and coordination of MLS compilations; and if an MLS owns the underlying copyrightable components of its database, such as photographs, listing descriptions and agent remarks, then that copyright extends to those components, according to the National Association of Realtors. “Really we …

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