No, I’m not talking to you. I’m thinking out loud. Please do not be offended.

It is easy for me lose sight of the “big picture” when dealing with data distribution legal issues on a day-in and day-out basis. Wading through the weeds on a contract-by-contract basis is important. However, the big picture of MLS data acceptance and distribution, and the basic contracts that govern those relationships, may be more essential.

Contracts are like insurance policies. Hopefully you will never need to use them. Hopefully they get negotiated, signed, and collect dust in a drawer. But like insurance policies, they provide a nice safety net.

A written contract formalizes a relationship so there are no surprises when questions about the relationship arise. At its absolute simplest*, there are four core relationships regarding data and the MLS. These relationships need the safety net of a contract.

  • MLS relationship with Participant 
  • MLS relationship with Subscriber
  • MLS providing data to Third Parties
  • MLS providing data to Participants/Subscribers

It occurred to me that we have not explicitly spelled out these core safety nets on this blog before. We work on them frequently, so it was easy to gloss over the overall structure and focus on the issues with which they address (MLS copyright infringement, copyright protection, and license scope).

There are several methods for dealing with the above relationships. Every organization may have its own method for formalizing relationships regarding receipt/distribution of data; but it should have something. The simplest way to address the relationships, in my humble opinion, is with four agreements that govern the four core relationships.

That’s it. A 330 word post. See ya’ll in Orlando.


*It should be readily apparent that this is an extreme over simplification. There may be other parties that provide data and it’s likely there are other destinations for data distribution. The goal of the documents that govern these relationships is to cast the largest safety net as simply as possible.