How to get listing exposure without infringing on copyright ownership

As a listing agent, you may be innocently thinking you can advertise your listings wherever and however you want. To a certain extent, you’re correct. However, you must keep in mind the copyright protections over listings and how that could affect what you can and cannot do with your listings.

Copyright over listing content is essentially like peeling back the layers of an onion. While you may create the listing as the listing agent, your brokerage owns the copyright. This gives the brokerage several rights such as reproducing the listing, translating it, etc. That’s the first layer.

Graphic of copyright law.

If the listing gets uploaded to a board or association’s MLS® System, and uploaded to REALTOR.ca, then there are now additional layers of copyright beyond the copyright in the listing itself.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) owns the copyright over REALTOR.ca and the compilation of listing content appearing on that website. Even though a brokerage owns the copyright over their own listings, it doesn’t have the right to copy that listing from REALTOR.ca. It’s important to be aware of this chain of copyright in order to understand why there may be restrictions when it comes to displaying your listings.

So, what does this mean for you?

While I’m not a real estate professional, I can assume you want more exposure for your listings by advertising them on several websites. One option is to use REALTOR.ca DDF® Advertising Network to send listing content to member and non-member websites. These websites are subject to DDF® Rules or  contracts, which CREA enforces to ensure the listing content is up to date and accurate.

Additionally, you can send listings to other advertising websites not affiliated with the REALTOR.ca DDF®. However, you will have to manually enter the listing information yourself or upload it to those websites from a feed of listing content you receive from your board or association. Yes, you will need to do some manual work! Here is the caveat, you can’t use any REALTOR.ca listing content for this purpose as that would raise concerns with CREA’s copyright over REALTOR.ca and would breach the terms of use on REALTOR.ca.

For example, you can’t copy or use the REALTOR® watermarked photos on REALTOR.ca when manually entering your listing on another advertising website. Similarly, copying listing content from DDF® websites is a breach of the terms of use on those websites as well as an infringement of the copyright over the listing content.

With that being said, if you’re not using DDF® when it comes to inputting your listings on advertising websites, you’ll need to do it yourself. So remember, don’t copy anything from REALTOR.ca or DDF® websites. If you do, you could end up with a cease and desist notice from CREA’s legal team and trust me, you don’t want that!

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Dahlia Pervez is responsible for compliance and enforcement efforts with REALTOR.ca DDF® rules, contracts, CREA’s trademarks, and copyright over DDF® content, in addition to assisting with a variety of legal files. Before joining CREA’s Legal Department, Dahlia was a litigation attorney specializing in insurance fraud defense on behalf of several leading insurance companies. She also handled a pro bono first-degree murder re-sentencing in the United States. In her spare time, Dahlia likes to watch Netflix, work on DIY projects at home, and attend concerts with her husband.


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