Stealing Data is Bad!

The man of genius does not steal, he conquers. -- Alexander Dumas

Let's just go ahead and admit straight off here that we are all in business for a couple of reasons. One is to make money to support our families and lifestyles. The other reasons vary -- it may be something like helping people, being a part of team, making a difference in the world or the sheer enjoyment of doing work that makes you happy.

That said, we all work very hard to protect our place in the business world. We spend countless hours doing our best to put forth a superior product or service. What if someone comes along and steals or undermines that product or service? Most peoples' ethical standards would consider that bad. What if your product is data and the service you offer is providing that information to affiliated partners with whom you have a contractual relationship?

If you think that data stealing is uncommon and it couldn't happen to you, listen to this. According to a survey conducting by the Ponemon Institute, 59% of employees who left or lost a job in 2008 stole confidential company data. E-mail lists, employee records, customer information including contact lists, and non-financial information, were mentioned in the study as the most commonly stolen types of data.

Data, or any other electronic content, is called Intellectual Property (IP) and is protected by federal laws. Additionally, enforceable contracts like website Terms of Use, and Multiple Listing Service (MLS)/Association Rules and Regulations, also protect your hard earned IP assets.

Data is difficult to protect from nefarious wrongdoers who can cloak themselves in the cyber invisibility. These thieves put together 'scraper' sites that steal data, images and layouts. In businesses like real estate, some of these scrapers take what they have stolen and then try to sell it to a reputable businessperson as an original lead. Sometimes people who steal data aren't so technologically savvy. They just finagle a log-in to a members only website, like an MLS, and collect the data for their own purposes without properly compensating the owner of the IP or adhering to the guidelines of the information use.

The tricky part of working with IP issues is that in the real estate industry, the MLS and the brokerage firms must jointly find the right balance between protecting the MLS content and creating rules that hamper the brokerage firm's ability to conduct business. This is where expert legal advice is essential in creating the contracts that enhance these delicate transactions. There are legal remedies if your data is stolen and businesses whose lifeblood is information are starting to successfully take action against the perpetrators.

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