What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? California
I am a licensed real estate agent in the state of California and a member in good standing of the California Association of Realtors (CAR).
The California Association of Realtors creates and makes available preprinted contracts and other forms that are copyrighted. These forms are available free to union members or for a small fee to members of the public.
I would like to be able to reproduce these forms online in order to be able to explain these forms or answer questions about them from potential clients and interested members of the public for educational purposes only.
I asked the California Association of Realtor's staff attorneys if this were possible.
Their response was that (CAR) forms cannot be reproduced for any purpose other that to be filled out by a buyer or seller and used as part of a real estate transaction.
I find this very hard to believe...
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This is from the CAR Website:
The standard forms published by C.A.R. for use in real estate transactions are protected by copyright law. To insure the value of the copyright is preserved, C.A.R. vigorously pursues and prosecutes persons who commit copyright infringement on the standard forms. Occasionally, persons inadvertently commit copyright infringement because they lack an understanding of basic copyright law. Therefore, to clarify the application of copyright law to C.A.R.'s standard forms and to avoid unnecessary prosecutions, the following questions and answers address the main questions that arise with respect to copyright law and C.A.R.'s standard forms.
Q 1. What is a copyright?
A In general terms, copyright is a form of legal protection provided by the laws of the United States to authors of "original works of authorship," that are fixed in a tangible (i.e., some sort of physical) form. "Works of authorship" include literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, and certain other types of works such as computer software. The work must have some originality; it must be the result of some creative effort on the author's part.
See the U.S. Copyright Office's website ([url=http://www.copyright.gov]U.S. Copyright Office[/url]) for a good synopsis of copyright law.
Q 2. What kind of legal protection does a copyright provide?
A A copyright gives the owner of the copyright exclusive rights to do certain things with respect to the copyrighted work. For example, a copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce (i.e., copy) the copyrighted work and sell the reproductions to the public. A copyright owner also has the exclusive right to authorize others to copy the work and sell it to the public. (17 U.S.C. § 106.)
Q 3. Are C.A.R. standard forms copyright protected?
A Yes. C.A.R. standard forms are considered "literary" works of original authorship and thus copyright protected. To make users of the forms aware of this, C.A.R. standard forms contain a prominent copyright notice at the bottom of the form.
Q 4. What is copyright infringement?
A Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of a copyrighted work in a manner that violates any of the copyright owner's exclusive rights in the work. For example, copying a copyrighted work without authorization from the copyrighted owner is copyright infringement. Also, developing derivative works based on or incorporating portions of a copyrighted work is copyright infringement. Examples of copyright infringement include copying a blank C.A.R. standard form and using it in a transaction or copying verbatim paragraphs from a C.A.R. standard form and incorporating them into an independently drafted agreement. (17 U.S.C. § 106.)
Q 5. Is photocopying or faxing blank C.A.R. standard forms copyright infringement?
A Yes. Unauthorized reproduction or copying of a blank C.A.R. standard form is copyright infringement.
Q 6. Is photocopying or faxing C.A.R. standard forms that are partially or fully completed copyright infringement?
A No, so long as it is done in relation to a real estate transaction. For example, C.A.R. does not consider faxing a completed offer or copying a signed purchase contract for a client copyright infringement. Since C.A.R.'s standard forms are provided for real estate transactions, photocopying or faxing partially or completed forms for purposes related to a real estate transaction will not be considered copyright infringement.
Q 7. What kinds of penalties and damages exist for copyright infringement?
A Copyright law provides severe criminal and civil penalties for copyright infringement. In addition to criminal sanctions, the infringer is liable to the copyright owner for (a) the copyright owner's actual damages and any additional profits the infringer earned from the infringement, or (b) statutory damages, up to $30,000, and, where the infringement was intentional, the infringer may be liable for statutory damages up to $150,000. The plaintiff may also recover costs including attorney’s fees in some cases. (17 U.S.C. § 504 (damages); 17 U.S.C. § 505 (costs and attorney's fees).)
Q 8. If I want to reproduce or reprint a C.A.R. standard form or a C.A.R. legal article, where can I get further information about doing so?
A If you desire information about C.A.R.'s reprint policy for standard forms, please contact Joy Alafia at [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]. If you wish to reproduce a C.A.R. legal article or legal Q&A, please contact Laura Williamson at [email]email@example.com[/email].
Q 9. Where can I get more information?
A This legal article is just one of the many legal publications and services offered by C.A.R. to its members. For a complete listing of C.A.R.'s legal products and services, please visit C.A.R. Online at [url=http://www.car.org]CAR : Homepage[/url].
Readers who require specific advice should consult an attorney. C.A.R. members requiring legal assistance may contact C.A.R.’s Member Legal Hotline at 213.739.8282, Monday through Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. C.A.R. members who are broker-owners, office managers, or Designated REALTORS® may contact the Member Legal Hotline at 213.739.8350 to receive expedited service. Members may also fax or e-mail their questions to the Member Legal Hotline at 213.480.7724 or [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]. Written correspondence should be addressed to:
California Association of REALTORS®
Member Legal Services
525 South Virgil Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90020