Window to the Law: Protect Your Website from Copyright Liability

Window to the Law: Protect Your Website from Copyright Liability

Jun 1, 2022
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Keep copyright infringement claims at bay by taking advantage of a safe harbor provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on your website. The DMCA can protect MLSs, subscribers, and participants from copyright infringement liability while hosting an IDX display.

Window to the Law: Protect Your Website from Copyright Liability - Transcript

Ensuring permission to use any third-party content in your business materials is an important risk management strategy. But what can you do when someone else submits infringing content, such as photos to the MLS and that content appears on your real estate website through an IDX display? 

You could still be held liable for copyright infringement for content posted to your website by a third-party, unless you comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.  

The DMCA is a federal law that provides a critical risk management tool to help you avoid copyright infringement liability, along with statutory damages of up to $150,000, for third-party content posted to your website.  Watch this Window to the Law to learn how to qualify for the DMCA’s protections. 

In order to take advantage of the DMCA’s safe harbor…

First, designate a copyright agent to receive takedown notices and be sure to also register the copyright agent with the Copyright Office. The agent’s name, address, phone number and email address should be included on your website as a contact for copyright owners to submit takedown notices requesting that material infringing their copyright be taken down. 

Second, comply with the DMCA’s takedown procedure. If you receive a takedown notice from a copyright owner promptly remove the content and alert the alleged infringer of its removal. If the alleged infringer submits a counter-notice, provide a copy of that counter-notice to the copyright owner and state that the allegedly infringing content will be restored in ten business days unless the copyright owner initiates a lawsuit. Absent such a lawsuit, you may restore the content to your website

Third, create and enforce a policy for terminating repeat infringers and inform website users of this policy by including it in your website’s terms of use. Feel free to use NAR’s repeat infringer policy, which is listed under the Termination and DMCA sections of the Terms of Use on 

Fourth, you must not have actual knowledge of any complained-of infringing activity or otherwise be aware of facts making the allegedly infringing activity apparent. In other words, don’t turn a blind eye to infringing activity on your website.

Finally, you must not be able to control the complained-of infringement and you must not receive a direct financial benefit from the infringement. We do not believe that an IDX display on a real estate website would violate this requirement.

Keep in mind that the DMCA only shields you against copyright infringement liability for content posted to your website by third parties. So, be sure to always obtain proper permission to use any third-party content.  Additional copyright resources are available on Thanks for watching this episode of Window to the Law. 

Additional Resources


Real estate professionals must be cognizant of copyright issues when it comes to listing content, most notably in connection with listing photographs.

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