In today’s world of real estate websites and blogs, fresh content is a must. One strategy site owners use is to place RSS news feed plugins on their websites. The RSS plugin draws news headlines form other companies and generally these headlines link directly back to the source of the news.
I was contacted by a client who received a Getty Images letter making a payment demand for the unauthorized use of images on his website. My client stated that he did not actually place the images on his site and that the images in question were from the full RSS feed that he embedded from Realtor.com.
I responded on my client’s behalf to the law firm seeking legal action, stating the alleged infringed photos were actually purchased as licensed images by Realtor.com. The law firm dropped the case and I was motivated to research the use of RSS feeds by Realtors.
In general, copying material without permission of the copyright owner is copyright infringement. However, there is an interesting legal questioned raised by RSS. By making your website available by RSS, are you granting permission for others to republish your RSS feed?
In other words, RSS is an abbreviation, which includes the word “Syndication.” Syndication generally means that the owner is making the material available to be accessed in other locations, which is essentially republishing. To my knowledge, the courts have not come up with a clear answer to whether republishing an RSS feed is actually copyright infringement.
I researched a number of companies to inquire as to their official legal positions on the use of their RSS feeds.
Lexie Puckett, Sr. Communications Manager Move/Realtor.com stated, "Realtor.com authorizes the use of RSS content through direct contractual agreements. Any other use of realtor.com RSS content is subject to our Terms of Service, which can be found here: http://marketing.move.com/terms-of-service. The Terms of Service currently do not permit re-publication or commercial use of realtor.com RSS content." I asked for additional clarification and confirmed, unless that user has written permission or has a contractual agreement with Move/Realtor.com, nobody is allowed to use RSS feeds in any manner.
Zillow and Inman allow the use of their HEADLINE RSS feeds as long as the headlines link back to the original article location. Vox Media who owns Curbed allows for users to post a one or two sentence excerpt in your blog post so long as the citation links back to the original article location where the audience can read the entire post.
The use of RSS feeds and compliance by Realtors has never been addressed until now.
When you blog, you need to make sure you are 100% compliant with third-party data sources.