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Protecting Real Estate Sites From Pirates

August 27, 2000

The article on the Collections of Information Piracy Act, ("Fight Brewing over Push to Stop Online Piracy" by Dan Gordon, Aug. 20) misrepresented the position and motives of the National Assn. of Realtors in supporting tougher laws to crack down on those who steal real estate listings from Web sites.

If Realtor.com had never been created, you can bet your last megabyte that the association would still be fighting hard in Congress to crack down on the thieves who scrape off of real estate sites the listings that brokers and agents work hard to compile.

Our crusade for protection from the data pirates has nothing to do with Realtor.com per se but everything to do with maintaining the integrity of the listings that have become the currency of the realm in online real estate.

The bill we support equally protects HomeAdvisor, HomeSeekers, Realtor.com and every other real estate site. There are literally thousands of Web sites listing homes for sale, owned by high-tech behemoths to mom-and-pop start-ups, lenders, brokers, multiple listing services, franchises and even newspapers. Every single one of them runs the risk of being pirated.

Take the issue of listing agents. State real estate laws and regulations require the listing agent to be posted along with every advertisement of a property. This preserves the agency relationship to protect the homeowner and tells potentially interested purchasers that they are dealing with a broker rather than the principal.

Pirates often remove the listing agent's information and replace it with their own. This is illegal under state law in many circumstances. But with the Internet, the pirate may be far from that state or even outside of the United States. State real estate regulators have neither the legal power nor the resources to reach these pirates.

We need a strong federal law that addresses this problem directly.

DENNIS R. CRONK

President

National Assn. of Realtors

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