Copyright Basics

Jan 28, 2008 Michael Wurzer

Jim Duncan and Galen Ward asked for a post on copyright and the MLS, so here it is. There are many experts in the area of copyright and MLS data, including Brian Larson and Russ Cofano (though Russ is now in-house at John L. Scott). I suspect Galen knows more about copyrighting MLS data than I do, given Russ’s involvement on RainCity Guide over the years. Anyway, I’ll respond to the call and at least explain what I meant about copyright transfer in my post on branded videos. Here are the basics:

  1. Facts are not protected by the copyright laws, but some parts of the individual listing, like the agent comments, photos, videos, etc. are expressions of authors and are protected.
  2. The author is the owner of the copyrighted work.
  3. Copyright means you can’t copy someone else’s work without permission. Permission usually is granted in the form of a license, which is a type of contract.
  4. Quite often, agents enter into some sort of agreement with their brokerage and the MLS regarding the right to use (license) the works created by the agent. The specifics of those agreements will determine whether the license is exclusive, permanent or has some other restrictions. This is what I meant in my earlier post, about transfer of the copyright, it all depends on the specific terms of the contract or license agreement from the agent to the broker to the MLS.
  5. The MLS also has copyright in the “compilation” or the database of the individual listings, which is a separate work of authorship from the individual listings.

That’s basically it. The agent is the author (most often) of the remarks and photos and other media, but they often license those works to their broker and the MLS. The key question is what are the terms of that license. Take a look at the contracts you have with your broker and your MLS. What do they say? If they don’t say something about copyright, you probably need to amend them. It would be great if you could let us know what you find by commenting this post.