The National Association of Realtors is fighting a court ruling that says homeowners who post floor plans of their homes on Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com and other websites could be open to copyright lawsuits.
NAR today filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in an effort to protect American consumers from a recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
At the center of the issue is NAR’s claim that the ruling misrepresents federal law and would invalidate decades of legal precedent by allowing copyright infringement lawsuits to be filed against homeowners who make or display floor plans of their own homes.
The brief was introduced alongside 18 groups representing consumers and professionals throughout the U.S. real estate industry, including Redfin Corporation, Zillow Group, American Property Owners Alliance and CoreLogic.
“The U.S. housing market accounted for roughly 18% of our country’s GDP in 2020,” said NAR general counsel Katie Johnson. “The Eighth Circuit’s decision not only puts countless consumers at risk of costly, burdensome litigation for making a floor plan of their own home, but it also strains a key sector of America’s economy and threatens a critical tool of transparency for potential home buyers.”
NAR states that Congress specifically allowed for homeowners to create “pictures” or “other pictorial representations” of architectural works without fear of liability when crafting the Copyright Act of 1976.
“Many home buyers rely on floor plans in real estate listings to decide whether to purchase a residence, and their ability to secure financing for that transaction is often contingent on an appraisal that requires the creation of a floor plan,” according to the brief. “After acquiring a dwelling, homeowners will often make floor plans to help them tackle installations, arrange furniture and complete do-it-yourself projects… And many jurisdictions require homeowners to submit floor plans before they renovate their property.”
NAR’s 2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report found that roughly two-thirds of home buyers listed floor plans as “very useful” in the online home buying process, ranking behind only “photos” and “detailed property information” as their most valuable resources.
So important are floor plans to the average U.S. consumer as they make one of the most consequential decisions of a lifetime, that this category ranked ahead of other key educational resources and disclosures like “neighborhood information,” “virtual open houses” and price data on recently sold local homes, the report states.
NAR is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.5 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.