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Branded or Unbranded Media, A Video Conundrum

Jan 22, 2008 Michael Wurzer

A few days ago, I posted about a video from Jeremy Hart and a couple of the comments here at the FBS Blog and over at Phoenix Real Estate Technology Exchange highlighted questions about the “branding” at the beginning of the video, which I thought might be worthwhile addressing further.

First, let me get some of the questions about the MLS rules out of the way. The flexmls Web system allows the MLS to specify whether users can upload branded or unbranded videos. In addition, the MLS can specify that only unbranded videos be sent in e-mails or displayed on public web sites like IDX from FBS. In this case, Jeremy’s MLS allows both branded and unbranded videos to be uploaded and e-mailed and Jeremy’s video was uploaded as branded. All is okay with the MLS rules.

The theory behind these rules is pretty simple: The MLS is a cooperative information exchange and the brokers and agents promoting the listings of other agents would prefer not to be promoting those other agents at the same time. For example, agents often want to remove the name of the listing agent (if it’s not them) from detail reports before sending them on to their clients and they don’t want branded information showing up in the agent remarks on their IDX sites or other venues they may promote. They want the data presented raw without hype from their competitors.

But this raises another question entirely when it comes to video. How does one create a video like Jeremy’s, where he is the host/narrator, without “branding”? Jeremy could have omitted the NRVliving sign at the beginning, but is it really practical to start a video without introducing yourself? I suppose the question becomes how detailed the introduction gets, but that seems like an awfully slippery slope.

Another issue raised by video, virtual tours and even pictures is copyright. Upon creation, the video is copyrighted by the author, in this case Jeremy. Doesn’t Jeremy have a right to include a statement of authorship to preserve the copyright? Some MLSs transfer copyright to uploaded works to the MLS, but I doubt many include video in that transfer. And videos and virtual tours are just links, so what copyright is transferred, if any, from the uploading of a link. For those MLSs that do attempt to transfer copyright to video, are the authors/agents comfortable with that? Do they really intend to transfer authorship and ownership of that work to the MLS or their broker? Who owns the video linked in the MLS is a good question.

I raise these questions hesitantly because I can see some MLSs getting caught up in the details and deciding it’s all too much trouble and banning innovations like videos. As Bob Bemis, ARMLS’ CEO, observed about an MLS trying to control virtual tour captions: “So rather than give agents a new tool, with which to be innovative and different, they took away the tool because in the hands of a very small minority it might be ‘dangerous.’”

Don’t go down that path. Video is a great innovation and has the potential to provide more in-depth and decisive information about listings. Some of the best videos are the ones like Jeremy’s, where the expert, in this case the listing agent, explains the details of what’s making the house valuable. That there is “branding” in conveying that information seems outweighed by the value of the information. To the extent that some disagree, they can always choose not to send videos with their listing e-mails or exclude them from their IDX feeds, but I think those choices should be made at the individual level and not system-wide. What do you think?