There’s a new “social media” policy up for adoption next week:
Recommendation of the MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Subcommittee (October, 2012):
That a new MLS Statement of Policy be adopted reading as follows:
MLSs may but are not required to give participants the ability to authorize electronic display of their listings by other participants outside the context of the Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) policy and rules and the Virtual Office Website (“VOW”) policy and rules.
Participants may not be required to consent to display or distribution of their listings through non-IDX and non-VOW channels as a condition of participation in MLS or as a condition of participation in IDX. Electronic display and distribution pursuant to this policy contemplates, but is not limited to, Short Message Services (“SMS”)/texting technologies, and interactive “social media”. All electronic displays and/or distribution of other participants’ listings conducted pursuant to this policy must comply with state law and regulations and applicable rules.
Displays addressed by this policy may be subject to technological limitations on disabling/discontinuing third-party comments/reviews, disabling/discontinuing automated displays of market value, “refreshing” displays on a periodic basis, and possibly other issues which should be taken into consideration when developing rules and policies governing such displays.
In a nutshell: MLSs would be allowed, but not required, to create new rules allowing participants to use each others listings outside of the IDX/VOW contexts, as long as the new rules don’t conflict with the law and the MLS provides broker opting. I would suggest, as usual, this be an opt-in, and further, that MLSs creating rules for several new uses provide an opt-in for each one. Obviously, this policy goes well beyond “social media” and we should probably come up with a new name for it.
Technically, whether this rule passes or not, it changes nothing. MLSs have always been allowed to create rules allowing for new listing uses, as long as there is opting. Syndication is a good example of this. But, if passed this is a nod from NAR that it’s okay for MLSs to innovate in this area, and the recommendation – adopted or not – provides some useful guidance.
I do have some concerns. The first is that MLSs individually will rush in and create a nationwide patchwork of inconsistent rules and drive brokers subscribing to multiple MLSs nuts. Industry attorney Brian Larson hopes that just a few MLSs will move forward with new rule creation, that we’ll see what works well and what doesn’t, and we can then more easily establish standard rules. I agree with him – that’s my hope as well. Brian also wisely cautions MLSs to be very careful enacting new rules, especially given differences in how regulators in different states may respond. My other concern is that brokers will be very frustrated if they adopt expensive new technologies and establish business practices and processes based on MLS rules, but then the rules change (if national rules are established as described earlier). Everyone that opts to create new rules for new data uses has to go into this innovation experiment with eyes wide open and aware of the risks – that goes for both MLSs and brokers.
I look forward to working with my more adventuresome MLS clients – and collaborating with my favorite industry attorneys – to create new rules. If we’re very, very careful, we should be able to avoid unintended consequences.
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