Complicating things further are software developers that explicitly offer scraping services to individuals. One web site WebHarvy, for instance, has a landing page that reads like a sales pitch.
“WebHarvy lets you scrape real estate web sites with ease. The best thing is that once you download and install our software you can start extracting data from real estate websites to your computer within a minute. WebHarvy is very easy to configure and use,” stated WebHarvy’s web site.
Mozenda, a screen scraping tool, do not advertise directly to real estate agents, although it is being promoted by industry insiders for mining real estate data from the web. One video owned by a YouTube user provides a tutorial on how to use it for gathering local property information, valuation and even homeowner data.
Data piracy has dragged a number of companies into a series of lawsuits over the past few years, as documented by a blog post published on the website of Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University of Law professor.
In one of the cases cited by the blog post, the Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) sued American Home Realty Network (AHRN) for re-publishing listing “photographs, agent remarks or narratives and field descriptors without a license.”
The case brought a number of gray areas to surface, such as whether generic textual content warrant copyright protection or not. Nevertheless, the court ruled in favor of RMLS and enjoined AHRN to stop reproducing or copying content from the former.
The court maintained, however, that RMLS’s field descriptors, which consist of bare, generic terms like “deck” or “patio” are not “sufficiently creative” to be copyright protected.
Data piracy “detracts the value” of a web site, as RMLS noted in its argument against AHRN. It also hurts the industry by robbing real estate agents, and ultimately, their brokers, of revenues.
“The listing data's first and foremost value is an advertisement to get the property sold, and to promote the agent and broker. That value is clear and fairly simple,” Realtor.com executive Curt Beadsley noted in an interview with RIS Media last year.
“The leaks are taking money away in two different ways. First if this marketplace could be created, it's a revenue stream. Brokers could be making money off of this. Second, they lose control of the leaked data. Brokers are losing control of their brand, and the way that listing is being monetized and displayed,” Beadsley explained.
“Consumers are agitated when they keep connecting to their agents with homes that are not really for sale. A lot of it is wrong. Agents are paying for leads on homes that went off the market months ago. As a broker, that's a brand problem,” he added.
Real estate agents can protect their home listings by turning to real estate technologies that have IDX (information data exchange) features and allow them to create unique branded pages. RealBiz Media Group, Inc.’s (OTCQB: RBIZ) patented proprietary video platforms have a built-in IDX system that is only shared with its clients and partners.
One platform owned by RealBiz Media, Nestbuilder.com, hosts an agent only platform providing real estate agents a wide range of social media and video marketing applications to build their listings, personal brands, blogs, community events, and incentive programs that are consolidated in what’s called Agent Video Reels.
According to a press statement from the company, Nestbuilder.com has over 1.6 million listings and “boasts the largest collection of video based listings on the market today.”
In 2013, a non-profit, REDPLAN (Real Estate Data Protection Legal Association Nonprofit), was founded to protect the intellectual property rights of multiple listing sites and real estate agents. Currently, REDPLAN is stockpiling member contributions for its legal reserve fund which will be used to support members “who felt their rights had been trampled on,” according to a report on Inman News.