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The National Association of Realtors has made some important revisions to its Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy.  These changes clarify NAR’s MLS policies to highlight the importance of licensing.

It is now imperative for every real estate broker to understand copyright licensing.  It is also critical that photographers understand what rights real estate brokers need, what rights they do not, and be able to speak intelligently with real estate brokers and agents so that the photographer’s clients are confident that they are receiving the right license for their needs.

The changes specify that:

  • Before submitting a listing to the MLS, the listing broker should own or have the authority to license all listing content to be published in the MLS.
  • Brokers cannot be required to transfer ownership rights, including intellectual property rights, in their listings or listing content to the MLS to participate in the MLS.
  • But MLSs may require brokers to grant the licenses necessary for storage, reproduction, compiling, and distribution of listings and listing information.

This is very reasonable and a welcome departure from the overreaching previously engaged in by NAR in this context.

Anything that gets agents, brokers and MLSs thinking and talking about licensing is a good thing.

It’s probably a good time to check your licensing agreements to make sure that you are granting the rights that your clients need, but not giving away too much in the process.  Our free real estate photography licensing agreement is always a good place to start.


Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.