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Do you know where your real estate content comes from? Copyright Infringement

copyright infringementImagine. You’re at work. Or at home. Maybe watching TV or on the phone. When it happens. You open up a letter that looks “official”. It’s a demand letter. From an attorney. And he wants $10,000.

TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS? FOR WHUT!? You scream sarcastically out loud. Copyright Infringement.

The letter reads:


John Doe
1212 E Oh SNAP! Lane
Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Mr. Doe:

This law firm represents [BIG Daddy]. If you are represented by legal counsel, please direct this letter to your attorney immediately and have your attorney notify us of such representation.

We are writing to notify you that your unlawful copying of [BIG Daddy’s work] infringes upon our client’s exclusive copyrights. Accordingly, you are hereby directed to


[BIG Daddy] is the owner of a copyright in various aspects of [BIG Daddy’s work]. Under United States copyright law, [BIG Daddy’]’s copyrights have been in effect since the date that [article/image/video] was created. All copyrightable aspects of [BIG Daddy] are copyrighted under United States copyright law.

It has come to our attention that you have been copying [BIG Daddy’s COPYRIGHTED WORK]. We have copies of your unlawful copies to preserve as evidence. Your actions constitute copyright infringement in violation of United States copyright laws. Under 17 U.S.C. 504, the consequences of copyright infringement include statutory damages of between $750 and $30,000 per work, at the discretion of the court, and damages of up to $150,000 per work for willful infringement. If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving this letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement.”

We demand that you immediately (A) cease and desist your unlawful copying of [BIG Daddy’s COPYRIGHTED WORK] and (B) provide us with prompt written assurance within ten (10) days that you will cease and desist from further infringement of [BIG Daddy’s]’s copyrighted works.


And then you remember it. That article you copied from someone else’s website and put on your real estate website. That’s what they are coming after me for? That’s what they want $10,000 for?

Quick answer – YUP!

The Value Of Real Estate Content

As real estate agents enter the online marketing realm they quickly learn the value of content. Content is blog posts, images, articles, videos, whiteboards, podcasts etc. Content is what consumers are looking for when they ask a search engine like Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube a question. Content is KING. While creating your own content is important, even imperative to getting found online and generating leads, taking someone else’s content can get you in real trouble. Financial trouble. Legal trouble.

If you have been to my real estate marketing classes you know I talk a lot about content. Content is the foundation of any marketing plan, whether it be blog posts or images or video. Without content, what do you have? Nothing. Nothing to write or make videos about. It’s in these classes that I say “DON’T EVER TAKE ANYONE ELSE’S ARTICLE AND PASTE IT ON YOUR WEBSITE”. “DON’T EVER TAKE IMAGES FROM THE INTERNET – GOOGLE IMAGES, etc – WITHOUT THE OWNERS PERMISSION”. To do so could open you up to Copyright Infringement.

It’s Still Protected

Many real estate agents think copyrighted material will appear with © but I’ve learned that is not required to be present to indicate copyrighted material. Even if an article, document or image does not have a copyright notice, it is still protected by copyright law. Many companies and content creators – media companies, marketing companies – take this EXPREMELY SERIOUSLY. So DON’T EVER take an article or image from the internet that YOU DID NOT CREATE. THIS INCLUDES ANY CONTENT YOU MAY HAVE HIRED OTHERS TO CREATE. If it’s on your website, you are the one in trouble, regardless of WHO created it. If you are working with a content creator, you would be well served to paste the article into Google to see if it is original or of it was copied illegally. You should be checking this routinely if you are paying for “original content” – you may be surprised what you find.


Now, in my real estate marketing classes I also talk a lot about “repurposing”. I say “you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you can use someone else’s article and “repurpose it”. By “repurpose” I don’t mean copy. I mean take change the angle, expand on the original idea, speak to a different audience. You should read the original, note the parts you agree with and the parts you don’t and write about them. Take a position for or against if you like. It’s hard to create content. It can be downright painful to continuously create new ideas, new articles, new videos – but repurposing makes it easier. JUST DON’T COPY THE PERSONS ARTICLE or IMAGES

Media companies repurpose all the time. You may have noticed after Dateline runs a story, 20/20 is not far behind or vice versa. One magazine runs a story and shortly after is another magazine with a similar article. You can get ideas from someone else’s article, you can take a position for or against it. You can elaborate on it. You can change the audience. But don’t ever take it from the internet and paste it on your website. Or you could be the next agent to receive the nastygram above.

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Hi I'm Stephen Garner, I'm just a guy in the title industry {in Phoenix} trying to change how real estate agents market themselves and their services. To that end, I teach my clients HOW TO leverage sales technologies like WordPress, Content, Video, Camtasia, Final Cut X, iMovie and indexable IDX solutions to convey value and help your ideal client find you online when they are most interested in learning about you and your services. I work for escrows. Hire me!

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