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IDX Copyrighted Photo Trouble?

judge Can you be sued because of another Broker’s mis-use of copyrighted images?

If a Broker lists a home and uploads copyrighted images as part of their listing feed, which is then in turn placed in  RETS/IDX, which you promptly display on your site — the answer is YES.

It has happened, it is still happening, and it happened to me.

Someone does an image search and everyone that shows up displaying that copyrighted image gets the “email“. In this case, the Broker was listing a new complex with a pool. There are no pool shots in New England in March (check back in late June) so they grabbed one from the net and published it. (If you are interested, it was someone floating around in a pool on raft)

The original Broker was left untouched, as their website could not be found. I settled for a lesser amount than that shown below. Note if I missed the date, it would have been 5x the indicated amount.


Think about the potential for liability.  There about ~30K active listings in Massachusetts.  What are the chances of this happening many times?

Here is a good read: Take Your Own Photos

What would you have done?  Did I take the easy way out?

About Mark Hankel

Mark is Software Developer, Licensed Real Estate Agent and Technical Consultant in the Boston area. Interests include Software, Real Estate, Triathlons, Reef Tanks and all things Apple. Looking to relocate to New England visit my website New England Premiere for homes and condos in and around Boston

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  • Matthew Cohen

    If you’ve been to any number of real estate conferences (e.g. CMLS, NAR) in the past few years, you’ve heard the discussion regarding the importance of registering real estate websites as a DMCA safe harbor, which helps protect website owners against issues such as this. Another approach is for participants to indemnify each other as a part of IDX, but I don’t have information on which MLSs may be going this route. This issue has nothing to do with RETS as a method of data transport, so I am not sure why the name of that data standard is in the headline.

    • Agreed on the title – I just changed it

  • Anyone can be sued. That doesn’t mean they’ll lose. I fully understand the desire to make it go away quickly, though, and I don’t blame you for paying it.

    These kinds of suits should be publicized widely and taken to NAR for attention. We’ve seen them discussed by top brass at ICNY and other places. There are people at the national level who fight these troll suits on a wide-ranging basis. The suits are misplaced, but hundreds of individuals are paying up based on the fear of the ridiculous “we’ll increase the fine 5x if you don’t pay right away” threat. When they are publicized, large groups of agents/brokers have one legal source (NAR) to show the illegitimacy of the claims.

    If the damages were $1400, there would be no reason to substantiate $7000 because of an arbitrary timeline. Getty Images maybe a well-respected company, but in this case, they’re merely trolls.

    • Based right here in Seattle…

      • Too bad. Somebody needs to go knock on their door and ask them to go after the real offenders. This is just petty.

        I suppose the other questions is, are you a Realtor, Mark? The NAR protection might not be available if not.

        • Yes I am a realtor, however I should have consulted NAR -but did not.

  • Great information and article, Brian. Thanks.

  • Pingback: Calling all Realtors: Learn Copyright and Fear Not the Cease and Desist Letter! | Schneider Rothman IP Law Group()

  • This post perpetuates misinformation. It also links to another site (Trend MLS) that is even worse. I have tried to clear it up here:
    I hope it is not too late to undo the damage, but I have my doubts.

    • I did have a long conversation with Joel. At the time I made the decsion to settle with the advice of counsel, however after talking to Joel, it would have been more prudent to challenge.

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