The Sarasota Association of Realtors (SAR) has been all over the real estate blogs of late. There are many posts out there detailing the story with the seminal post being Sarasota Association of Realtors Domain Theft by Morgan Carey of Real Estate Webmasters.
Here is the Cliff’s Notes version:
In 2003, Sarasota Realtor Marc Rasmussen secured a domain name, TheSarasotaMLS.com. Marc chose this domain name in part because of an article printed in the March 2002 issue of REALTOR Magazine by Michael Russer, aka “Mr. Internet”, that suggested a domain name such as [location]MLS.com was a sound idea.
Of note, Marc asked both the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR) if it was OK to use this domain name. They both indicated they had no issue with it.
Over the years, Marc built his web site into a formidable marketing weapon and it became his primary source of business. Countless hours and dollars were poured into his site, and it ranked very well for many real estate search terms for the Sarasota area.
Fast forward five years to today.
The Sarasota Association of Realtors filed an ethics complaint against Marc apparently on behalf of the public good because they felt the domain name “TheSarasotaMLS.com” was misleading to the public. I guess they feel that the public is going to land on Marc’s web site and think that because of the domain name they are on the actual Sarasota MLS site. Personally, I give the general public a lot more credit than SAR appears to. I think anyone over the age of 10 and/or with an IQ above 40 or so will know precisely what kind of site they are on ”” Marc’s site is obviously a real estate agents site.
The results of Realtor ethics hearings are private. I think it’s pretty safe to assume though that the ethics hearing didn’t quite go the way the SAR hoped, as they continued to pursue Marc’s domain name by filing a complaint with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) ”” a regulatory body charged with the responsibility to mediate and resolve domain disputes.
So a “jury of peers” (the Realtor ethics panel) finds no wrongdoing. The SAR continues their assault and sadly, in a split decision, the ICANN arbitrators ruled for the SAR, and ordered the domain name to be turned over to SAR.
As it stands now, Marc has filed a suit in Federal District Court in an attempt to save all that he has worked for over the years. It is thought that this action would place “on hold” the ICANN decision to transfer the domain over to the SAR, but alas, the SAR has redirected TheSarasotaMLS.com to their own association web site. (Isn’t that curious as the same public the SAR feels is so stupid is now being “mislead” again, this time by the SAR themselves!)
What should be done?
The Sarasota Association of Realtors is bent on destroying one of its own members
The answer is simple, and would take 5 minutes. All that needs to be done is have TheSarasotaMLS domain name properly redirected to Marc’s new domain ”” LuxurySarasotaRealEstate.com. This would allow Marc to keep the search results he has worked so hard for, AND make it so the “general public” would never see the domain name “TheSarasotaMLS.com”. That should (one would think) satisfy the SAR, as their concern for poor stupid John Q. Public would be satisfied. Little Johnny Public would never even see “TheSarasotaMLS” and could not be “mislead” into thinking he was on the MLS site itself.
But no, this isn’t good enough for the SAR. They want the domain name. Why? What good does it do them? All they are doing is destroying the work of their own, dues paying, association member. It makes no sense what-so-ever.
I can only think of two reasons the SAR would fight and fight over control of this domain name:
1) They want to hijack all the work Marc has poured into it for their own gain
2) They’re ignorant and they don’t understand how search engines work, and how a 301 redirect could solve this whole mess.
I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s reason #2. But given that they heard from an expert (Morgan Carey) at the ethics panel and still chose to go after the domain pretty much leaves us at reason number 1, doesn’t it?
If, as the SAR claims, they are only protecting the public and their members, then please explain why they’ve taken no steps to secure such “misleading” domain names like:
The-Sarasota-MLS.com, .net, .info and .org
Or any of a host of other similar “misleading” names?
If the Sarasota Association of Realtors is so concerned about misleading domain names confusing the public, shouldn’t they fork over the $70 required to make sure no one grabs these names?
Huh. Sure seems like they have one and only one purpose in ripping off Marc Rasmussen and destroying his business”¦
Do you have a post on this? Let me know and I’ll add it.