Copyright and Inspection ReportsJanuary 2024
In mid-October 2023, ReportHost began receiving negative reviews on a number of review sites. Most of these reviews were not made by current ReportHost customers. At the same time, ReportHost started receiving a lot of attention on the InterNACHI user forums and, we imagine, on other forums to which we do not have access.
We’ve been dismayed that so many inspectors – people trained to observe critically, not jump to conclusions and to seek information about observations before reporting on them – have come to conclusions without all the facts and have wrongly attributed poor behavior to ReportHost.
For that reason, we want to take a moment to talk to you, the home inspector community, about ReportHost. If you are open to learning more about ReportHost, intellectual property, and copyright, please read on.
ReportHost has been providing inspection report-writing services for more than 20 years. Our big differentiator in the early days was that we provided purely web-based services and report delivery, features that no one else at the time offered.
ReportHost recognized that our web-based services could provide more than a simple checklist report. We could ease some of the inspectors’ burden by offering professional, informed narrative content so that inspectors didn’t have to create it from scratch. This was a compelling reason for many to try – and stay – with ReportHost.
From day one, ReportHost has developed both software and narrative libraries to help inspectors inspect, describe, and report on the condition of a property.
The value of professional, informed inspection narratives
There is no debate about the value of narrative libraries. They provide the same value as the software used to employ them; a time saving tool to provide professional reports to clients. Many inspectors find cost-effectiveness in well-written and consistent narrative libraries that account for their own, their clients’, and their agents’ needs. It’s a way to create professional, consistent, and thorough reports without having to cut in to valuable inspection time.
ReportHost invested a lot of time and effort over the years into developing our narrative libraries to ensure we offered a valuable product to the home inspection community. Did we include a few simple, one-sentence narratives? Yes. Is this the valuable part of our package? No. Instead, it is the substantive narratives that allow home inspectors to spend more time inspecting and less time drafting reports.
Our libraries were created by an experienced property inspector and copyedited by professionals. ReportHost invested in an accomplished and experienced team of writers who drafted a series of narrative libraries consistent in form, style, and tone, and unmatched in the industry. We kept them in our platform so that home inspectors using the ReportHost platform had an edge on competitors.
It’s pretty evident the home inspection community understands the value of these libraries. So much so, that we started finding our carefully drafted narrative libraries being used outside of the platform we worked hard to develop.
We were initially stunned; it appeared some home inspectors were unethically misappropriating our work. We know inspectors typically guard their own work – inspection reports – very closely. No inspector we have encountered allows their clients or agents to sell their inspection reports to other parties. Those reports are their intellectual property and protected by copyright.
We came to understand that the home inspection community just may not have a proper understanding of copyright. Copyright is fundamental in the United States; it’s expressly protected by the US Constitution. These rights to own intellectual property include the rights to make and sell copies of copyrighted works.
With that in mind, we looked into ways to protect our hard work from unethical use by those who were not licensed to use it. We have worked with home inspectors who didn’t understand, and most of them recognized the value of licensing our narratives for our very reasonable fee.
But some did not. Software companies and inspectors who use our narratives outside of ReportHost’s system hurt our business model and the hard work we’ve put into our business. And while copyright law protects us (and protects every American inspector and business), some members of the community have been reluctant to acknowledge that “rewriting” or encouraging a “rewrite” of ReportHost narratives is an active violation of ReportHost’s rights.
Here’s an example of an inspector who changed our narrative that reads:
Defending our rights
We want to make something clear: we’re not out to sue inspectors or find cushy settlements as a business model; we are simply defending our rights to be compensated for our content. We charge $6/report in our system (a price that has not increased for 15 years), and we expect the same compensation if our content is used outside of our system. Full stop.
As a small business that caters to small businesses, we have found it extremely challenging to dedicate resources to defending our rights. We’re also humans, and we’ve found it tremendously difficult not to engage in what we think is unfair criticism, name-calling, and inaccurate attribution of one-sentence, barely-expressive narratives that ReportHost has recently been subjected to. Instead, we have chosen to focus on more productive efforts like running our business and helping our licensed users deliver reports. However, if we fail to stand up against those who violate our rights, we allow our hard-earned intellectual property, the most valuable part of our business, to be taken. And our business suffers.
We have seen many one-star reviews over the past couple of months from people who have never used ReportHost but have read what has been written on forums, listened to on podcasts, and broadcasted to the community. Most members of our community agree this is unfair and dishonest.
Our business is suffering because of ill-informed people spreading misinformation. Our livelihood is suffering because of this proliferation and yet we remain determined to defend our rights. This statement is our attempt to reach out to you, the home inspection community, to talk about our livelihood and that of our users. We are bound by contracts with a number of members of the community that, put simply, we will not violate. We hope that our customers and the public at large will understand our position and support us in our efforts to protect our intellectual property and livelihood. And we encourage all of the community to do the same.
Our industry is enriched by the participants in it creating original works. It’s the whole model behind our industry. We’re proud to license our library to our users and we encourage competitors to stand up their own narrative libraries to face ours. America is built on competition - fair competition - based on hard work, skill, and ability.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for your willingness to hear the full story. We are happy to hear from you at email@example.com