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Everything Your Brokerage Needs to Know about Web Image Copyrights
Picture this: The perfect real estate website, full of gorgeous shots of beautifully staged homes and design trends. There's just one issue. That website pulled its design trend images from an image search—and they weren't properly licensed. Now, the owner of that site is in copyright hot water.
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Hefty Security Breach Fines by the U.K. Under GDPR Regulation
The United Kingdom Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) announced substantial security breach fines on two large companies last week. British Airways and Marriott now are feeling the impact for security breaches of customer information in 2018. The £183.39 million ($230 million) fine for British Airways and its parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), is a record under the GDPR. Four days later, the U.K. data authority fined Marriott £99 million ($123 million) from a security breach in 2014 that was only found in November 2018.
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If You Have a Contact Form on Your Site, You Could Face Huge Privacy Law Fines
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It's Time to Modernize the Clickwrap Experience
We've all done it at some point. We've checked the box on a signup form that says we agree to a company's privacy policy, or we've scrolled to the end of a terms-and-conditions page and clicked the "I accept" button. Companies have been using--and people have been accepting--these standard "clickwrap" agreements for years now. The process seems simple enough. One click, and you're done, right? Maybe that's the case for customers. But for companies, clickwraps are more complex, incurring needless risks and costs.
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NAR Moves to Dismiss Moehrl Lawsuit
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GDPR and Its Effect on the US Real Estate Industry
How is the General Data Protection Regulation, passed in the EU, affecting us in real estate here in the US? Get a closer look at the measures abroad and in the states to protect users' privacy. Scott Petronis, Chief Product and Technology Officer at eXp Realty, moderated a discussion — "GDPR and Its Effect in the US" — with Scott Lockhart, CEO at Showcase IDX, and Marinda Neumann, Managing Attorney at Lotus Law Center, APC at Inman Connect's Hacker Connect in New York 2019. To see the full discussion, watch the video below: TL;DR GDPR applies to any agent, broker or real estate marketing pro that works with European citizens. The upcoming California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) will be closer to home and affect agents and brokers more directly. While there is a "stick" in the law, there is a huge opportunity for Realtors and brokers that successfully meet consumers' needs and desire for privacy. Listen to the discussion for more details. Speaker Bios Scott Lockhart: A serial entrepreneur known for building innovative companies and considered one of the top real estate privacy experts in the world. Previous CTO of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, with over $4.5B in yearly sales. He has consulted with national brands in the retail, real estate and mortgage industries, including Lowe's Home Improvement, Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Wachovia Bank and some of the top 20 residential real estate brokerages. Marinda Neumann: Marinda is the managing attorney at Lotus Law Center, APC. Her firm represents multiple listing services and associations providing transactional and policy counsel. The firm also provides legal services to real estate professionals, vendors, and service providers, individuals, and businesses with a focus in contract, business law, data privacy and security, technology and data licensing, copyright, and trademark. Prior to becoming an attorney Marinda served in the U.S. Navy as a Cryptologic Technician, she worked within the Department of Defense (DOD) for over ten years and possesses an extensive background in software and computer technology, with an emphasis on data security. Scott Petronis: As eXp Realty's Chief Product and Technology Officer, Scott leads the delivery of strategic agent-centric solutions that power the company's business and rapidly growing agent base. Scott has more than 20 years of experience in delivering software and SaaS products for businesses and consumers. For more than six years, Scott has been a fixture in industry technology initiatives through his work with the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), including leading the Web API initiative as the Chair of the Transport Workgroup. In that role, he drove agreement on a new standard that allows companies to more rapidly innovate solutions for the real estate industry. Click here to read a transcript of the talk.
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Acquisition Hell: The Tech Investment
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Thoughts on the Incoming Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Realtors
First of all, if you haven't been watching Hot Ones on YouTube, you really should. I have been a late adopter, but it's been my go-to time-killer the last month or so. With that in mind, I'd like to break down the implications of the recently filed (and very fiery) class action lawsuit within the United States District Court in the Northern District of Illinois (hello, Chicago!) on March 6, 2019 by generating some potential outcomes on a scale of Mild to Armageddon.
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MLSs Demand Broker Data Sovereignty
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Privacy Regulation for Everyone Coming Soon
Similar to new data security and privacy laws sweeping the European Union and California, it is only a matter of time before new laws are required throughout the United States. This week's news is the U.S. House and Senate held hearings on data security and personal privacy. The timing of the first set of hearings on Capitol Hill aligns with the fact that several other states – such as Washington, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia – are on a pathway to either pass new or update their security and privacy laws.
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CCPA for the U.S. Real Estate Industry: An Introduction
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How to Change Your Business Name
Changing your business name is more complex than spreading the word about the new name. But if you're committed to the re-branding, read on to learn how to change your business name in ten steps.
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How Computer Vision Helps Portals Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act
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MLS Terms of Use Changes and Copyright FAQ
This post is the result of a collaborative effort amongst the Council of Multiple Listing Services, The Realty Alliance, The National Association of REALTORS®, and Larson Skinner PLLC. Many MLSs have been making changes to the way they file copyright applications and their MLS terms of use. Those changes have raised some questions from participants and subscribers. This FAQ is intended to answer some of those questions and emphasize that the MLSs are not forcing participants or subscribers to give up ownership of listing content.
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Collateral Analytics Sues Nationstar and Xome for Stealing IP
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How to Register a Trademark
You've developed an eye-catching logo or a snappy slogan for your business. How do you ensure another business doesn't use it? The best way is to register a trademark. Read on to learn how to register a trademark to protect your brand.
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Zillow Protects Broker Data
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CFPB Investigating Zillow – Brokers Consider RESPA
Inman News journalist Andrea Brambila broke the story on Thursday that Zillow is under investigation by the CFPB. Apparently this has been happening for two years. According to Brambila, "The program, launched in June 2013, allows 'Premier Agents' who pay for advertising on Zillow Group's apps and websites to invite lenders to share marketing costs by paying Zillow Group to appear as 'Premier Lenders' in advertising alongside the agent." What Should You Do? Brokers should take immediate action. Agent activities are supposed to be supervised by the broker. We do not know who is going to become the target of the CFPB. That is the funny thing about regulators. Perhaps they find Zillow complicit, but I would expect that there is a possibility that they pursue the mortgage company and the real estate community who are also knowingly involved in the practice. Brokers need to establish a defensible position, especially if you are a large firm. Here are a few ideas. Be sure to document your efforts in the even that you need to defend yourself against the wrath of the CFPB. 1. Send notice to your agents alerting them to the concern 2. Have office meetings to educate agents about the concern to educate agents on RESPA
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Risk Management for Real Estate: Insurance Requirements
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Top 5 Weirdest Real Estate Regulations Across North America
When starting a brokerage, it is important to be aware of local real estate regulations. But don't worry, these regulations are common sense...usually. Let's countdown the five weirdest real estate regulations from all over North America that clearly do not subscribe to common sense. 5. Paranormal Policies from Coast to Coast If you purchased a house in Quebec, New York, or many other states across the US, and were not informed about prior paranormal activity in your house, you can revoke your purchase. These types of laws are meant to protect home buyers and may include obligations for brokerages to report any natural or unnatural deaths that have occurred on the property. Intrigued by paranormal activity? Click here to see haunted properties near you! 4. Colour Control in Canada Paint is a crucial decision for your new home. It gives character and is a home buyer's first impression of a listing. However, few of us think about the legal ramifications of our favourite colour. If it happens to be purple, then Kanata, Ontario might not be the place for you—since it's illegal to paint your garage doors that hue.
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DMCA Safe Harbor Alert for Broker Websites
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School Ratings: The Legal Gray Area
Sometimes, real estate selling can get tricky—such as when you're about to get an offer and the potential buyer asks, "So the schools around here are okay, right?" Only, not really. Do you risk the sale with the truth? Water it down? Change the subject? What are you legally required to disclose when potential buyers inquire about school ratings? It turns out, that's a far more complicated question than you might think. The fact that housing values are directly influenced by school ratings is well known in the industry, with several studies pointing to good schools adding an average premium of $50 per square foot to property values. These patterns are also reinforced by local property taxes, where assessments directly benefit school coffers. Some advocates for fair housing see potential problems with this whole scenario, and that's a complication that may surprise you. School rating maps mirror racial dot maps While most states base school ratings on easily measured factors like test scores and graduation rates, these key indicators turn out to be heavily influenced by race and class. This "common denominator" is now raising issues regarding disclosures to potential buyers, and has intensified with today's ease of access to web-based information.
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Real Estate Companies Should Address Website Accessibility to Avoid Lawsuits
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Real Estate Professional Exception to Passive Loss Rules
Life isn't exactly easy for most real estate brokers and agents these days. But real estate pros who own rental property have one thing going for them that others don't: special tax advantages. Let's say that you are a rental property owner and you spend more on the property than you earn during the year–a depressingly common occurrence. Naturally, you'd like to be able to deduct your loss from any non-rental income you have, thereby reducing your taxable income and lowering your taxes for the year. Unfortunately, losses from real property rentals are classified as "passive activity losses." Special passive activity loss rules greatly limit the amount of losses that a rental property owner can deduct from his other non-passive income, such as salary or other business income. A maximum of $25,000 can be deducted from non-passive income each year, and even this is phased out if the owner's adjust gross income exceeds $100,000. Unused losses must be saved for future years. Luckily for real estate professionals, they can qualify for a special exemption from the passive loss rules–an exemption nobody else can get. If you qualify, you may deduct any amount of rental activity losses you have for the year from your other income–such as real estate commission income–regardless of how high your income for the year may be. (IRC Sec. 469(c)(7).) For example, a real estate broker who loses $100,000 from his rentals could deduct the entire amount from his commission income. But it gets even better. Real estate professionals are also not subject to the 3.8 percent net investment income tax on their real estate income. The NII tax was enacted to help fund Obamacare and took effect with the 2013 tax year. (However, real estate pros do have to pay the 3.8 percent tax on investment income, like interest and dividends.) So being a real estate professional can now save you on taxes whether your real estate ventures make or lose money.
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Choosing the Legal Form for Your Real Estate Business
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Why the Preliminary Title Report Is Your New "BFF"
Reviewing the Preliminary Title Report immediately is integral among real estate selling tips for preventing long-term sales roadblocks, which can take a great deal of work, time, and money to clear. Although nearly everything in real estate must be written, documents aren't always recorded or safely and properly stored for reference as they should be. Many title-related issues can come back to haunt you: Uncovered liens - Title liens flying under the radar from long, long ago. Liens from prior owner(s) - Liens from third parties that preclude the current owner's insurance or transfer, sometimes lying in hiding from several owners back. They'll continue to remain until cleared, and if left unresolved will result in sales issues down the road for your current buyers. An unrecorded re-conveyance - From when the note secured by a Deed of Trust on the property was paid off. Litigation issues - Lawsuits on file which are vague and lacking in details, such as a lawsuit initiated for specific performance which was later updated to a damages suit (with the specific performance component removed). Property boundary issues - Even a prior agreement with a neighbor affecting property boundaries. Example: a fence location, which may not be an issue for the previous owners but may be one for the new owners, could result in expensive disputes later.
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Data Security is the Law
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Know How to Explain the Mediation Clause in Your Real Estate Contract to Buyer and Sellers
You're about to close the deal, and up pops the paperwork full of fancy legalese on mediation. Do you have the selling tips you need to break it down for your clients without losing the sale? Dealing with disputes Real estate disagreements come in all shapes, from the sobering to the stupid. Mediation is just one way of dealing with them in the rare instance they should arise. Why mediation? Society is growing increasingly litigious, at great monetary, time, and emotional expense to the parties involved – not to mention the economy. Mediation offers a popular alternative, rising in frequency of use due to its unique ability to reduce these tolls. Baby steps Mediation is the first step toward dispute resolution. More informal than arbitration, it occurs outside the court system, involving a neutral third party – the mediator – whose goal is to assist parties in the dispute in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement to the dispute.
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[FAA UPDATE] The Dream of Using Drones for Real Estate is Becoming A Reality
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Don't Get Thrown by Doc Overhaul
Timely closings will require advance planning under new compliance rules. August 1 will be a big day for real estate professionals because that's when two new closing forms—a Loan Estimate and a Closing Disclosure—will replace the three forms you're used to working with: the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, the Good Faith Estimate, and the Truth-in-Lending disclosure form. The purpose of the new forms, which were created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with input from consumers and industry groups, including the National Association of REALTORS®, is to consolidate information and make it simpler for consumers to compare how close their costs are to what was originally estimated by the lender. The first page of the new Loan Estimate and the new Closing Disclosure are formatted in exactly the same way, so you and your clients can easily compare costs and note any changes. Expect refinements to the forms after they are released as the CFPB sees how well they work in the real world. Although the information required isn't much different, some of the compliance requirements are new. NAR analysts say the new procedures could prove challenging for two reasons. First, the CFPB is requiring the closing disclosure to be given to the buyer three days before closing. That is to allow consumers time to look carefully at any deviations from the original estimates rather than make them consider the changes while the closing is underway. That is a positive change for consumers, but it means if you're used to getting everything done at the last minute, you'll have to do a better job of planning ahead to accommodate the new rules.
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Interest Minimizer Program Sued by Feds for Misleading Consumers
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ListHub/Zillow Divorce Stimulates Discussion
On April 7, 2015, the agreement between national listings syndicator ListHub (a division of Move, Inc., which itself is a subsidiary of News Corp.) and Zillow Group—the operator of websites and mobile apps with Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, and other brands—will expire. ListHub will stop sending listings it receives from MLSs and brokers to Zillow Group, and those listings will not appear on Zillow Group sites and apps unless they are transmitted by other means. REALTORS® should understand this change and take steps to ensure that their listings are appearing where they expect them to. There is no official definition of syndication. The informal one our law firm uses is this: "Distribution in bulk of real estate listing records by or on behalf of the listing broker to portals that will advertise them to consumers on the Internet via websites or mobile apps." A "portal" is an entity like REALTOR.com, Zillow Group, Homes.com, etc., that displays listing information to consumers as advertising via a website or mobile application. A decade ago or so, ListHub formed to provide a service to MLSs and their brokers: ListHub would aggregate a single data feed from the MLS of all brokers' listings; ListHub would negotiate contracts with the portals; and brokers could control which portals received their listings via the ListHub "dashboard." ListHub became a national "listings syndicator," and hundreds of MLSs now work with ListHub, which sends brokers' listings to dozens of portals. ListHub acquired a competing syndication vendor—Point2—last year, making ListHub the only national listings syndicator working with a substantial number of MLSs. If you are a listing broker, you should know whether your MLS syndicates through ListHub. If it does not, you will not notice any change on April 8. Similarly, if your MLS syndicates through ListHub, but your brokerage has "opted out" of listing syndication or display on Zillow Group sites, the April 8 date will bring no changes for your firm. In short, if your listings are not going to Zillow Group through ListHub, the break between those companies will have no affect on you.
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Could You Be Stealing Stock Photos?
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Preparing Your Real Estate Business for Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is being introduced on July 1st, 2014. This legislation puts restrictions on what is, and what is not considered acceptable forms of electronic messaging. Moving forward businesses must ensure that there is expressed (explicit) or implied consent before emailing or texting people in Canada. This law also pertains to those in the U.S or overseas who are contacting Canadians via electronic messages. Let's take a look at what it means to receive expressed or implied consent: Expressed Consent: The recipient has given you direct permission to email them for business purposes. This could be via a mailing list sign up form on your website, or a confirmation link in an email etc. There must be an affirmative action whereby the person clearly identifies that they wish to be contacted by you. You must also include the option to unsubscribe from your communications at all times. A record of this expressed consent must be kept. Implied Consent: Revolves around the notion that you are allowed to email someone because you have an existing business relationship with them. An "existing business relationship" exists where the sender and recipient have engaged in business together within the previous two years from the date the message is sent.
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And the Verdict Is ...
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Broker AVMs (Part 5): Suggestions for NAR
You will no doubt be pleased to hear that this post is the last of a five-part series on the question of whether and how brokers participating in MLS may use listing data of other brokers to power AVMs sold into the real estate vertical. See Part 1 for an intro and Part 2 for advice that NAR gave MLSs in 2013. I examined a letter from The Realty Alliance (TRA) on this subject in Part 3. The 4th post discussed the NAR policy proposal, at least as it stood as of May 7, 2014. In this post, I'll briefly discuss a report from Clareity Consulting, which came out on May 8. Then I'll make some clarifying suggestions to the policy proposal going before NAR's Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee this week. The Clareity Consulting report On May 8, Clareity Consulting released a report titled "Broker AVM: Exploring the Controversy." I encourage folks to read it, but it leaves some of the issues I've expressed the greatest concern about mostly unaddressed. I think the Clareity report makes an impassioned argument for why NAR should comply with TRA's request. While I don't necessarily agree that all those arguments are persuasive, that has not been my angle; instead, I'm interested in how the decision is made and how this works out in practice. My main concern is that the Clareity report appears to assume that any broker AVM will be run as responsibly as I expect TRA's Collateral Analytics partners will run things. For example, the report says: "To be clear, the financial institution never receives raw MLS data." (p. 3) "Unlike the 'paper brokers,' or others who have misused the data, TRA wants to ensure brokers have a legitimate means of doing business, facilitated by the MLSs." (p. 4)
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Broker AVMs (Part 4): NAR’s Proposed Policy
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Broker AVMs (Part 3): The Realty Alliance's Position
This is part three in an x-part series (I promised four parts, but who knows?) on the question of whether and how brokers participating in MLS may use listing data of other brokers to power AVMs sold into the real estate vertical. See Part 1 for an intro and Part 2 for advice that NAR gave MLSs in 2013. In a letter dated January 27, 2014, Craig Cheatham, CEO of The Realty Alliance (TRA), made a recommendation to the National Association of REALTORS®: NAR's MLS Policy [should] be amended to clarify that an MLS must provide Participants, upon request, with a data feed, or permit Participants to download the MLS data from the MLS' database compilation, for use by the Participants to create and deliver AVMs to customers and clients through automated means, such as the Clearinghouse... (page 9; all page numbers in this post refer to TRA's letter). The Clearinghouse is a project supported by TRA and described in the letter (see page 2) that permits participating brokers to work with TRA and its technology partner (which we understand to be a company called Collateral Analytics) to use MLS data to deliver automated valuations to third parties for a fee. An automated valuation model or "AVM" is "a service that can provide real estate property valuations using mathematical modeling combined with a database" (according to Wikipedia as of April 18, 2014). In this case, the database is the MLS database, including not just the listings of the broker developing and delivering the AVM, but the listings of all MLS participants.
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Broker AVMs (Part 2): Previous NAR Policy Guidance
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Your Content and the Doctrine of Fair Use
Fresh, interesting and visitor-valued content is a challenge for every real estate professional in building out their web presence. Not only do we try to create our own totally original content, but we can also provide value to our site visitors by citing other articles around the Internet with real estate related content. The question is whether, and how much, content of others we can quote or copy into our posts or articles. The "Doctrine of Fair Use" gives us specific guidelines, and this article is taking information directly from the Copyright.gov website, the legal authority on the subject. First, a blanket statement: You cannot copy whole articles or blog posts legally, and simply giving the author credit or a link doesn't make it legal. This is a misconception shared by many website owners out there. Every word you or anyone else creates as your original work is protected by copyright, and you don't need to file any documents to make that happen. If you write and publish it, the content is protected. Section 107 of the copyright law brings together numerous court decisions over the years to create the doctrine of fair use. Section 107 gives us four factors to consider in determining whether or not our use of someone's content is "fair use." The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. The nature of the copyrighted work. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
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Cybersquatting: New potential problems, and possible solutions
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Broker Intellectual Property At Risk
Many real estate brokers are being asked to sign new MLS Participant Agreements. The cause for new agreement is based upon the MLSs efforts to support real estate brokers to protect their intellectual property. This is a very important initiative that every broker should take very seriously. Every broker should also consult with their attorney to discuss ramifications and meet with the MLS in a forum to discuss the best path. There are a couple cases before state supreme courts (MD and MN) that are ruling on the ability for the MLS to defend the intellectual property rights when they are scraped from public websites or misused by licensees. Since I am not an attorney, I will not opine on the cases but suggest that you get a statement from the attorney for your MLS. I surmise from my reading of each case that the courts are divided. The specific methods that MLSs use to perfect and protect copyright have a lot to do with the ability to defend the copyright on behalf of the broker. New Intellectual Property Options in MLS Participant Agreements Although there are variations on what I have seen, this is the language that seems to be popular for MLS adoption into their rules: Election regarding copyrights in Participant Contributions Assignment from Participant. Participant hereby assigns to the MLS all right, title and interest, including all rights under U.S. and international copyright law, in the Participant Contribution, Participant warrants that it has the authority to make this assignment. Participant acknowledges that once it has made the election agreeing to this section, all copyrights in all portions of the Participant Contribution, whether submitted to or after executing this Agreement, shall irrevocably vest in the MLS MLS Obligations. MLS hereby grants to Participant a non exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, transferable, royalty-free, license to reproduce, prepare derivative works of, distribute, display, perform and license (including sublicenses through multiple tiers) the Participant Contribution and those portions of the MLS Database relating to Participant's listings. MLS shall secure the rights of Participant hereunder by obtaining assignments and licenses from Subscribers and others as necessary. MLS shall make quarterly registrations of the copyrights in the MLS Database, including the Participant Contribution, MLS shall employ reasonable efforts to detect and hinder third parties using the Participant Contribution without Participant's permission.
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Expiration of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act Will Have Little Impact
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How do laws protecting consumer privacy affect your business?
This post comes to us from the PCMS Consulting blog: Consumer privacy – a quick overview Many changes are coming down the road in 2014 regarding the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) that both you and your mortgage and/or title partners should be aware of. Do you know what CFPB is? If you don't, you can visit their website to educate yourself about these new consumer protections. In short, the CFPB is an agency, created by Congress, designed to protect consumers after the financial meltdown of a few years ago. It is deeply affecting the mortgage and title worlds and may end up impacting brokerages, as well. Whether or not you have a mortgage and/or title relationship, you should consider positioning yourself as the brokerage who protects consumer information.
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Online Oversight
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Cloudy With a Chance of Disaster
Apple introduced iCloud to the world of consumer computing. The service promises to provide access to files, such as music and photos, from multiple devices. A radio advertisement touts the benefits of an online payroll system that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and is so easy to use that even a boy operating a lemonade stand can use it. The concept behind iCloud and software that is accessible anywhere is not new, but is part of a rapidly growing technology platform called the cloud or cloud computing. Cloud computing gives both consumers and businesses the ability to use software applications and input and access data on any number of devices anywhere in the world. Cloud computing is generally the ability to remotely access software and data from off-site servers and other hardware through the Internet. It is divided between public and private clouds. A public cloud services multiple clients and customers, and a private cloud, similar to traditional outsourcing that is controlled by the user, services only one or a limited number of clients and customers. Application software offered in the cloud, or software as a service (SaaS), runs on servers located off-site or in a remote location--the software does not reside on the desktop or local computer or server. Netbook computers are designed to operate SaaS because they don't need a hard drive, but instead merely need access to a browser and the Internet to operate the SaaS application. Many of us are already in the cloud with Google's Gmail, Yahoo mail, Facebook, Flickr, and Google docs. The number of business applications is rising rapidly. The economic and other benefits cannot be ignored, particularly in stressed economic times. There are several potential drawbacks, especially for business applications, however, that need to be addressed before fully embracing and launching the concept.
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Legal Traps in Social Media: What Every Business Owner Should Know
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E-mail Could Be Binding
Guest contributor Richard D. Vetstein of REALTOR®Mag says: Imagine you're negotiating a purchase transaction by e-mail with the real estate agent representing the buyer. The price has been agreed to, and you're working out the buyer's financing options. The buyer is able to be preapproved, and you e-mail, "We're almost there." A draft purchase offer is written up and e-mailed to the buyer's agent, but before anything is signed, a better offer comes in. The seller wants to go with that one, so you immediately inform the buyer's agent of the situation. The buyer is upset and wants to enforce the deal. Much to your horror, the e-mails you exchanged may be enough for the buyer to sue to enforce the deal. This was the case under a ruling last year in Massachusetts. In that case, Feldberg, et al. v. Coxall, attorneys representing the buyer and seller exchanged a series of e-mails about the deal, the last one attaching a revised, but unsigned, offer to purchase. When the seller pulled out of the deal, the buyer sued, claiming the deal had been sealed in the last e-mail. The seller argued that nothing had been signed, as required under a law called the Statute of Frauds, which varies by state but generally requires certain agreements to be signed, and sought dismissal of the claim. The judge ruled against dismissal, though, saying that, under a state law called the Massachusetts Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (similar laws exist in other states), an e-mail signature block or even the "from" portion of the e-mail may constitute a valid electronic signature in cases where the parties are conducting the transaction electronically, as these parties by all appearances were doing. The judge denied the seller's motion to dismiss, opening the door for the court to look at whether the e-mails in fact constituted a binding agreement.
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Your Real Estate Website is Illegal
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REALTOR bloggers should watch their words
Some agents and brokers have adopted blogging as a method for marketing their services, and reaching the wide audience of people looking for information on the Internet. When doing this, be careful what you say. A real estate broker in Irvine California (who is not a REALTOR) recently got into hot water with a local Association of REALTORS over some statements that he made on his blog.  
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Midyear Recap: RPPSI, Listings on Social Media, and the Franchisor IDX Policy (and Why I Will Opt In)
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Your Social Media Emergency Response Kit
The good news is that following three years of massive expense and effort real estate professionals across North America are now making effective use of various social media tools. The bad news is that, as is always the case, 10 percent of agents will go too far. And at least 3 percent of them will commit errors that will get their brokers in trouble. This problem is certainly not limited to the real estate industry, quite the opposite, a number of high profile social media gaffs have occurred over past several months in several industries. Shoe mogul Kenneth Cole sent out a Tweet to thousands that suggested that the mobs in Egypt were responding to an announcement that his shoes were now available on the Internet. Last summer's famous Tweet regarding the Gulf oil spill set off an avalanche of protest. This past winter's posting of the GroupOn's super bowl commercial involving Tibet on YouTube.com was just the latest social media disaster.
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Are You Managing Your Risk?
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7 Ways to Avoid a Tax Audit for 2010
The Internal Revenue Service audits about one percent of US Taxpayers each year. As a real estate professional, you are likely to have an independent contractor relationship with your broker. Although your chances of being audited are pretty slim, there are basic principles that will reduce the likelihood of being part of that one percent. A few items to avoid are significant deductions for automobile expenses, home improvements, or outrageous meal expenses. By following these 7 steps, you can lower your chances of being audited.
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Smarter Agent Sues 13 Real Estate Technology Vendors!
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Is Your Website Accessible to All?
When considering all the functions a real estate professionals looks for in building and maintaining a professional website, accesibility for the disabled rarely enters the equation. But there are legal reasons to consider adding accessibility features to your website. Did you know that of the 308,942,937 people in the United States, about 18% (according to the U.S. Census Bureau) of us have some kind of disability? That works out to about 62 million people, which is the combined populations of California, New York and Arizona. In 1990, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Among the protections provided in the ADA is the right for disabled persons to enjoy places of public accommodation fully and equally as non-disabled persons. Since the turn of the century, the definition of a public place has expanded to include the Internet since it is now an everyday tool for conducting business and recreational activities.
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