It’s 10 PM. Do You Know Where Your MLS Data Is?
By Nicole Jensen, realMLS CEO
MLS Data is king, right? MLS Data keeps you and your clients “In The Know™”. MLS Data is the fabric of our real estate lives! Listing Agents spend their days collecting it, curating it, and creating it. Buyers Agents provide it to prospective buyers who then use it to make significant financial decisions. RealMLS staff spends substantial energy on protecting it, monitoring it, standardizing it, transporting it, and licensing it. Licensing it?
Yes, licensing MLS Data for display by third parties on public search portals. Let’s step back in time for a moment and remember how we got here. Third parties were approaching individual brokerages to display their listing data on public search portals to advertise to consumers. The industry (the portals and member brokers) decided the MLS was more well positioned to facilitate both the transport and licensing of MLS Data to the public search portals. Our data licensing agreements were a blanket, first line of defense on what third parties could and could not do with our precious MLS Data.
MLS’s around the country penned agreements with third party portals to best protect the MLS Data and our members. We began (and continue) filing for the copyright of the MLS Compilation with the US Library of Congress. We created systems through which our members could granularly manage the flow of their MLS Data to these third-party public search portals. We built transport mechanisms (then RETS, now APIs) used to most efficiently and effectively get MLS Data exactly where the Listing Broker wanted it to display. RealMLS continues to provide these member benefits and has active data licensing agreements in place. Our license agreements with these third party portals protect what they can and cannot do with your MLS data.
Separately, there are public search portals operated by licensed brokers which are governed by a policy called Internet Data Exchange (IDX). This policy basically says, “Other brokers can display my listings if I can display their listings.” This is an all-in, or all-out policy. Of course, sellers can always choose for their listing to be withheld from Internet Display, which would opt their listing out of ALL public search portals, including IDX displays by other brokers.
There are third-party public search portals that are obtaining MLS Data Licensing directly from Listing Brokers. These individual licensing agreements supersede any MLS data licensing agreement in place. This means even if the MLS has a data licensing agreement containing certain protections, the Listing Broker’s agreement overwrites any protections the MLS may have written into its data licensing agreement. The Listing Broker data licensing agreements may even be simple click-through agreements, which may seem harmless, but please be cautious. When it comes to MLS Data, protecting it has never been more important. Always seek legal advice when it comes to licensing your listing data directly to third parties. Once certain data licensing rights are granted, it is difficult to regain any rights or control which may have been granted to this priceless asset.
The MLS will continue to protect our members and their data to the best of our ability and as third-party vendors allow. Remember, the Listing Broker, in agreement with the seller, is ultimately in control of where listing data is displayed. Read the licensing agreements third-party, public search portals are asking you to sign. The licensing language contained within matters to you, your clients, and the industry as a whole. The MLS data powers the broker cooperative to which we all contribute. It is our collective responsibility to protect the MLS data and make sure its use by third parties is well intentioned.
It’s 10 PM. Do you know where your MLS data is…and what data licensing rights third parties have been given?