Information technology has been a boon to the real estate industry — and also one of its biggest challenges. As real estate professionals who have found their data stolen, hacked, reverse engineered or scraped can attest, protecting your intellectual property is not only extremely expensive, it can also be confusing. What are your rights? And how do you enforce them successfully?
Yet, protecting the industry’s intellectual property rights in this still unchartered territory is nonetheless critical to safeguarding your business, your brand and the industry as a whole.
“There has been a flurry of brazen copyright infringements on listing portals in recent years,” says Gregg Larson, CEO of Clareity Consulting, which provides management and IT consulting services for the real estate and related industries, and has been engaged in issues of real estate intellectual property since 1998.
The end result is tens of millions of dollars generated each year off of stolen data by both small companies operating quietly on their own, to larger companies that systematically acquire a national footprint of data without acquiring the proper licensing — at the expense of those who own the data.
Despite the fact that over half the data currently being sold is not appropriately licensed, practitioners are often forced to stand by helplessly and turn a blind eye to the activity. Those who do choose to take legal action often do so at great personal expense with only minimal success, according to Larson.
“Companies come to us and say, ‘We know that our data is being stolen, but we can’t afford to go after them.’ Even if they do, uncoordinated litigation strategy is not effective and generally only stops things in that particular market,” Larson explains.
Enter REDPLAN (Real Estate Data Protection Legal Association Nonprofit), an organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of MLS and real estate brokerage intellectual property rights. REDPLAN was founded in May by Clareity Consulting and Claude Szyfer of Stroock, Stroock & Lavan LLP to address the legal needs of the real estate industry with regard to data piracy.