The Negotiator opens discussion on what lawyers will no doubt describe as a grey area.
Home.co.uk is accused by one agent as mis-marketing that agent's property details. These details have been acquired through the process of scraping or to give it the politicians title 'indexing'.
The argument goes something along the lines of: if, as an agent, your properties are scraped daily then there ought to be little to complain about, it is free marketing after all. But, if your properties are infrequently scraped, poorly scraped and thus displaying incorrect data there is a problem.
The USA has seen its share of these issues with some of the heavyweight real estate portals/search engines scraping/indexing properties. It has led one of the Multiple Listing Services (MLS) to issue some guidance on the issue.
Put simply, the MLS defines the practices of what it calls 'benign' scraping and 'malicious' scraping. '...benign if they provide intended benefits to the consumer and the buyers and sellers whom the REALTOR® serves, and are not in conflict with the MLS Policy. They are deemed malicious if they utilize the listing data in a manner foreign to the original intent of the REALTOR® and the property owner, and are incompatible with the MLS Policy. The practice of “scraping” or “indexing” by search engines for the purpose of displaying or indexing the data for consumer property search, and which ultimately direct the consumer back to its source, is benign, and is in sync with the REALTOR’S® intention when displaying listings on the Internet. When a third party, e.g. a search engine, through “scraping” or “indexing” misappropriates and uses the listing data for purposes not intended by the property owner or REALTOR® , these practices become malicious and should be prohibited...'
Quite obviously you cannot cannot level the charge of malicious scraping against Home.co.uk as it refers the user back to the original source, i.e. the agent and the killer line here is what was '...the original intent of the Realtor ... when displaying listings on the Internet...'.
So really we need to add another category of negligent scraping. Indeed, if search engines/portals are scraping then surely they have a duty to ensure that information is accurate and updated frequently, I would say at the very least daily. It is no defence to fall back on the free marketing argument if the information being displayed is incorrect.
In a nutshell, there is no legal grey area, it is black and white really - it is basic copyright infringement. But with so many adopting this practice it has become acceptable (and indeed profitable) when search engines/portals get it right.
If agents still do not want any intrusion from search engines (and you have to agree that you would be mad not to) they can very simply insert a line of code to go into their website to prevent any search engine indexing/scraping their site. Pointless moaning about it, if you don't like it, turn it off!