Copyright of Appraisal Reports – Again
Why do we need a copyright in the first place?
Before deciding whether you need to copyright, or whether it is too complex or not I urge all to read the information found in the following link.
When I started searching to see what the specific requirements were, I initially thought I’d have to pay a fee and submit each ‘work’ (appraisal report) to the United States Copyright Office. Clearly not a practical process for most of us, even if the fee weren’t so high (about $114.00).
I’m pleased to say if is not that complicated, or costly.
In fact, it is free according to the linked information above. It’s also as easy as simply putting “© 2017 Michael Ford” on each of your appraisal reports. (I’d probably recommend using your own names though, but if you insist you can use mine for the copyright only).
Okay, so why do we need a copyright in the first place?
Does anyone remember an article not too long ago in which CoreLogic offered certain market trends, opinions and conclusions that were purportedly arrived at after having “reviewed millions of appraisals?”
Our work product was used without compensation by an unintended user to develop and report claimed market actions based on the perceived or stolen ‘credibility’ inferred by having developed those conclusions as a result of ‘reviewing’ or studying our millions of appraisals.
Fannie Mae (FNMA) has also admittedly used our professional work product in a manner that was never intended nor authorized in order to create their so called (and patented) ‘Collateral Underwriter’ (CU) process. It’s interesting that FNMA thought they needed patent protection for a process that incorporated results taken from our stolen work product.
Freddy Mac also has a collateral scoring system, but they are much quieter about how it was developed or how it functions. Smart, huh?
How about Redstone and all the other commercial regression programs that are touted as being able to tell us how to make adjustments? Are these also using appraisal reports submitted through them or to them to cross check accuracy or performance based on real appraisals? (If they are developed purely on math based statistical & regression analysis of public records – no problem).
Each of us puts a Statement of Limiting Conditions on our appraisal reports so that they may not be used for unauthorized or even potentially misleading purposes. We don’t do it to try to ‘hustle more money’ out of already existing or compensated appraisals. We do it primarily to limit our own liability and to prevent uses that would be misleading or otherwise detrimental to the public.
Many of us think there is nothing we can do as far as limiting FNMA use goes, but that simply is not true. FNMA does not allow us to alter their limiting conditions page. FNMA has broadened its intended uses and users beyond anything any of us ever envisioned, but they have not yet included language in the limiting conditions that gives them intellectual property rights over our work or to use it for purposes beyond specific loan transactions.
Technically we don’t have to claim copyright to enjoy it’s protection but there is a defense called ‘innocent infringement’ if we don’t. I’m not willing to give the likes of CoreLogic, FNMA or anyone else that steals all or part of my professional work product that easy of a defensive out.
I also want to put an end to our professional work products being used against us in the development of processes that have proven detrimental to our profession (like CU).
As a start, I urge all appraisers to at least put ‘© 2017 YOUR NAME’ on TEMPLATE cover sheets or report cover pages if you use them. If not, then put it in the FIRREA and other disclosures pages. I’m going to also put it on addendum pages and in non FNMA transactions in the limiting conditions.
I don’t know how much actual protection this will give us, but at least it gives us a legal foundation for claiming protection and control over our own intellectual property. Some AppraisersBlogs readers may have other or additional suggestions. Let’s pay attention to them. It’s another small step toward taking back our profession.
Personally, I think it also reinforces the concept that appraisals are as much an art as a science and a subtle reminder they have value of their own.