Advertising and marketing property is a necessity to secure a quick sale for the seller, the perfect home for the buyer and a commission to the licensee for making the aforementioned happen.
In the past, MLS listing books, yard signs, word of mouth, newspaper ads, and other limited advertising forums were the broker’s and agent’s best marketing tools. These tools also allowed the broker and agent to manage access to their listings. However, with the advances in technology and the Internet, now a broker’s and agent’s best tools include the MLS electronic database, broker websites, agent websites, third party websites such as Realtor.com and authorized print and television media. These new marketing vehicles have one large disadvantage over the past tools; it is now much easier for unauthorized persons to copy, use and profit from the listings.
As a result, managing and protecting listings from uses injurious to the broker’s business and his client's best interests is a real concern for real estate practitioners. To accomplish that, real estate practitioners will have to learn the concepts and vocabulary of copyright and contract law and adopt the procedures necessary to manage their valuable listings inventory.
So why is managing and protecting listings so important?
1. Protecting the Seller: The act of listing the property exclusively with a broker demonstrates the seller’s desire to have inquiries concerning the sale or rental of the property handled and screened by his agent or broker. These sellers have an interest in being protected from undesired harassment, solicitation, and communication while having their property marketed in an efficient, effective manner. Therefore, brokers and agents have a duty to protect the privacy of their client. This protection can only be accomplished if listing information is properly managed and controlled.
2. Protecting the Listing Broker: The broker’s listings are his valuable inventory. Technology and the Internet have made this inventory vulnerable because of the ease with which it can be taken and disseminated. Therefore, in order for these listings to retain their value, it is crucial that brokers manage and control the listings. For example, the time and expense invested to secure these listings can be lost when unauthorized individuals use the listings or parts of the listing content for commercial gain. Brokers may also face legal liability from the copyright owner (such as the seller or a third-party photographer) if the broker uses the listing content without obtaining the proper rights. Finally, brokers will likely be required to represent and warrant to the MLS and vendors that he has obtained the appropriate authorizations and rights to use the listing content in order for the broker to use the facilities of these parties to market the broker’s listings. If the broker has not obtained these rights, he could be responsible for any liability of the MLS or vendors.
3. Protecting the MLS: The MLS needs to be able to publish and distribute the listings submitted to it without fear of copyright infringement. (This type of situation might occur if the listing broker is using a photograph taken by an agent, seller or a professional photographer without first obtaining the rights to use that photo.) The MLS also needs the ability to stop infringers from using listing content; unauthorized third-party use could threaten the viability of the MLS.
Ultimately, the failure to take appropriate action and implement adequate listing content management techniques and tools could lead to a loss of seller privacy, a loss of the broker’s valuable inventory and assets, legal liability, and it could even erode the value and viability of sharing listings through the MLS.