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Protect Your Website From Copyright Claims

Realtors who “always do the right thing” may still find themselves legally accused of a copyright violation – often a photo on their website, and sometimes one that was automatically uploaded by their IDX feed.

WASHINGTON – A growing number of Realtors and brokers find themselves facing a copyright claim, and many of those accusations end in a judgment against the agent or brokerage.

Your website or business materials may put you at greater risk for litigation than you think.

You could be held liable for copyright infringement even for photos you didn’t personally choose, such as ones provided by a third party to your MLS that then appear on your website via an IDX display, says Chloe Hecht, senior counsel at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

Putting a risk management strategy in place can help protect you and your business, Hecht says in a NAR’s recent “Window to the Law” video.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which passed in 1998, may offer some protections when posting third-party content – but it’s not a foolproof defense. The DMCA is a federal law that provides a “safe harbor” to avoid some copyright infringement claims, but certain procedures must be met.

Hecht highlights some of those steps in the video, including:

  • Designate a copyright agent. This person will be responsible for receiving any takedown notices in case of copyright claims and will need to be listed as a contact and copyright owner on your website, along with their contact information. Also, register the copyright agent with the Copyright Office.
  • Comply with the DMCA’s takedown procedure. After receiving any takedown notice due to a copyright allegation, promptly remove the content in question. Then, notify the person filing the complaint of its removal. “If the alleged infringer submits a counternotice, provide a copy of that counternotice to the copyright owner and state that the allegedly infringing content will be restored in 10 business days unless the copyright owner initiates a lawsuit,” Hecht says in the video. “Absent such a lawsuit, you may restore the content to your website.”
  • Include a notice at your site. Inform website users of your copyright policy and include it within your website’s terms of use. View an example under the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)” section at nar.realtor/terms-of-use. Also, view the “Termination” section, which informs website users of enforcement for terminating repeat infringers.

You can find additional copyright resources at nar.realtor/copyright.

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