Copyright Updates to Protect Your Website



In the millennial age, it has become a necessity for licensees seeking success to have a website that displays personal information, services the licensee offers and, of course, listings.  A lot of time and effort go into creating both the visual aspects as well as the content on a website.  The end result is a product that constitutes your intellectual property.  Just as you want to protect your property, others likewise want to protect their intellectual property.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects original works of authorship, like websites, narratives, and photographs.  Let’s take photographs for example.  You want to make sure you have the right to use them and also the right to use them in the way you want.  Your license to use copyrighted photographs may only extend to listings in an MLS but exclude social media or websites.  Just as there are laws to protect your original works (your website and its content) there are laws in place to address improper use of copyrighted material.

The  DMCA does have exceptions to avoid liability for using the copyrighted material of another.  For example, if you are notified that you are infringing on another’s content, and you remove the content immediately, you avoid liability.  So that you can be notified, you are required to register as the designated agent for your website with the US Copyright Office.  This provides your contact information in the event someone needs to notify you of a copyright infringement.

Now that you’re DMCA complaint, you need to evaluate whether your website is compliant with the Americas with Disabilities Act or ADA.  Last year, the Department of Justice issued guidance that websites are an area of public accommodation, and thus must not discriminate on the basis of a disability.  However, to date, the Department of Justice has not issued any additional guidance on how businesses are to accommodate those with disabilities viewing websites.

In the vacuum, Plaintiff’s law firms have sent demand letters and filed lawsuits against a number of companies, including real estate brokerages, alleging failure to comply with the ADA.  In the interim, the National Association of Realtors is suggesting that licensees post a statement on their website, directing those with disabilities to a specific person to obtain the website information.

There is a lot to running a successful practice that goes beyond simply providing superior services to your clients.  When developing those tools to promote your business, like a website or social media platform, it is best to make sure that you engage the appropriate professionals to be sure your intellectual property is protected and available to those with disabilities.

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