This is an old debate. It is a legal debate. It is an interesting debate. What is the Multiple Listing Service?
Is it copyrighted? For a discussion of the case law , you may read Peter G. Miller, "Who owns Broker Data?",
So, what are the arguments for and against unlocking the data? For some, this is moot since some MLSs
are "open" now. The Multiple Listing Service is an agreement that when I show your listings and you show
mine, we both agree to compensate one another if all the terms are met. The arrangement we have is
designed to drive transactions thru the MLS where the the property is advertised. The accuracy of this
data is critical since it is in our best interest to be the most credible source of information for the
consumer. We also feel certain data fields are confidential and therefore, are not meant for public
consumption. To this end,we have established rules on the display of information.
One argument for distributing MLS information to free sources such as Zillow, Trulia, and Yahoo
is that the consumer is is searching these real estate websites now, and discovering some
inaccuracies. The old and inaccuracte information would be replaced with more accurate MLS data.
Both the agent and the consumer benefit since their information would match.
It is also important to note that some MLS systems are run by real estate companies, local realtor
associations, and some by the broker members. Many of these MLS are run as for-profit enterprises.
In the event, the information becomes free, a revenue source may be lost.
If the MLS were to go away, what would replace it? Some suggest regional MLSs as viable
alternatives that are big enough to attract large numbers of consumers. Data accuracy may
still be an issue,whether controlled by realtors or non-realtors.
The biggest argument for protecting the data is that realtors are in the best position to facilitate
the real estate transaction. Maintaining control over the data keeps the agent in the middle.
Where do you think we're headed? I realize there are other arguments...