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1000Watt – can brokers take back their listings being peddled as property porn?

Porn, Parasitism and Portland Condos

Joel Burslem at 1000WattConsulting recently wrote an editorial entitled “Porn, Parasitism and Portland Condos” that caught our attention and hit on a nerve that was apparently more raw to us than we knew. Burslem argues that the property blog concept is not new, there’s money in property porn trafficking a la Brownstoner.com and Curbed.com- it appeals to our inner dreamer as we envision how our lives would be if we lived like a Kardashian or a Brangelina.

But as the images being pulled from the MLS (“the leak” as Burslem calls it), stripped of watermarks and heavily Photoshopped, the newly shiny images all point back to third party media sites rather than the agent’s site. “I’m sure Trulia and the others would say that this is just one more way they are building ‘visibility’ for properties, but this use of copyrighted material seems brazen,” Burslem said, additionally calling it “parasitic.”

Burslem’s editorial is timely as he notes the National Association of Realtors (NAR) meets this week to rule on its own social media policy that muddles the waters as to whether or not brokers can peddle property porn by re-purposing photos to drive traffic to their own site, but there is little recourse for an association against non-participants in an MLS (like third party media sites).

What now? Do brokers have any power?

To extend on the nerve Burslem struck, we asked him a series of questions to dig deeper into what brokers can (or can’t) do as it is their data after all.

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Q: Do you anticipate the “leaky boat” will get worse in coming years, or will it die down?
A: Oh for sure. It’s only going to get more widespread. As new platforms mature, as technology gets more accessible and easy to use, the restrictions around data usage are only going to become less effective.

Q: How could MLS providers or boards hold non-members responsible for using agents’ intellectual property?
A: Honestly, I don’t think they can. I guess they could pursue these sites under copyright law but it’s probably a losing battle and would be a little like playing “whack-a-mole.”

Q: Some say that any promotion of their listings is welcome and that they opted for the internet to have their listings, so under this argument, is it really a leak?
A: Ultimately, I think the decision needs to be left up to the listing agent or broker as to whether or not they want their listings displayed on these blogs. Not the other way around. I also think that brokers and agents should have the ability to do this sort of thing as well.

Q: How can brokers plug the hole?
A: In short, they can’t. But I do think they should have the ability to participate themselves.

Q: How would consumers that love the porn and media companies that provide it react to the hole being plugged?
A: The bottom line is, people like pretty pictures. Brokers should be empowered to do a better job at filling this need – rather than abrogating the responsibility to third parties.

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