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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 37806
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I am a licensed real estate agent and pay dues to the local

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I am a licensed real estate agent and pay dues to the local and state association. The state association creates the standardized forms that we use. They are now telling me that I do not have access to these forms unless I use the vendor of their choice. However, anyone from the public can get a copy of the forms if they want to use them. When something is copyrighted and I have permission to use the forms, can the association holding the copyright tell me what vendor I have to use and refuse to allow me to get the forms direct from the association. I am unclear as to the copyright laws and whether or not the state has the right to restrict my usage of the forms. Thank you.

The association is probably formed as a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation. The association owns the copyright of all of its forms, and it can control who can and cannot obtain copies of the forms and under what conditions.

It seems to me (as I'm sure it does to you), absurd to make it more difficult for members to obtain real estate forms than the general public. However, if the Arizona association of realtors is similar to California, where I practice, then I would assume that you pay less than a member of the general pubic does for the forms.

Also, in California, we are given a free subscription to Zipforms as part of our association membership. This makes the forms and any updates free, and it allows a realtor to fill-in-the-blanks and print any form at any time from their computer at will. I can't frankly think of any real estate agent who still uses the multipart forms to write an offer or listing agreement -- because Zipforms is so much less costly and more efficient.

Anyway, back your direct question, a copyright holder can absolutely control to whom copies of a creative work may be distributed and under what conditions. 17 U.S.C. 106-106A. So, if your association wants to make it difficult for you to use the forms, then it can do so, and your only recourse is to comply, or use some other form -- or, try and have the board of directors of the association removed and replaced with a board that is more accommodating to members.

I'm sure that you cannot be the only person who has a problem with this issue. With political matters, such as this one, it's votes that count.

Hope this helps.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your answer. It confirmed what I thought. I just do not like the answer. Why should my company be forced to use Zipforms? I found a vendor that will allow us to put the forms on the site, sign on the site and manage the transaction on the same site. Currently, that takes 3 different vendors. I have started the process to get the company licensed that I want to do business with but it is a long process and the association is not playing nicely. They keep talking about "keeping the integrity" of the forms as if I do not want to keep the same standards. Sorry, I am just venting. Thank you for your time.

I understand your annoyance. Unfortunately, the association of realtors is a de facto monopoly, and there's little that can be done, because most agents would be (understandably) afraid to use a contract not issued by the association.

Anyway, I wish you the best. Let me know if I can help you again sometime.

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