Real estate photos are obviously a key part of the marketing and listing of a particular property. Whether the agent takes the photos, hires a professional or the seller provides them, those photos are really the first handbook that buyers get of the property. These photos are located on the MLS which is shared on hundreds of syndicated websites across the country as well as listing flyers, in print and everywhere online so if all of these places are using these listing photos who do they actually belong to?
The authorship and ownership of photos with in the real estate industry is "fractured", meaning that the use varies across the industry. Listing photos can be taken by homeowners, agents, the MLS, broker employees or even professional photographers if granted access. These photos may be owned or licensed to different parties in a variety of ways. Misunderstanding how others can use these photos could make you liable for a lawsuit.
Professional photographers may hold ownership to a listing photograph and may only grant the use to the brokers who use the photos solely in connection with marketing the active property listing. Each professional photographer has their own terms of service and rules and some professionals may not allow access to the property photos once a listing has sold.
This is why it is important to know what rights you have and what belongs to professional photographers, listing agents or even the homeowner. In order to reduce any copyright infringement agents and those using the photographs must assess what rights were granted or conveyed, make sure that all of your photos are in compliance with relevant agreements, understand how those photos will be used and maintain records of all assignments and licenses.
There are three main legal agreements for photographs:
- Work for hire agreement in which the agreement provides that the commissioned photographs are a work for hire and that the commissioning party is the automatic owner of the photo.
- Assignment agreement, which the photographer assigns all rights, title and interest to the pictures to the broker.
- Exclusive license agreement, in which a photographer can retain its ownership of the photographs but can grant the broker an exclusive license in connection with real estate industries.
Is extremely important to understand all of these agreements before using any photos that may or may not be taken by you directly. Again, this is only for listing photos that would be used in an MLS or in marketing a particular listing.
Read more: Why listing photos can make or break a sale (see images in article)
As a certified Realtor® for the top-rated Columbus Realty Firm - Vision Realty, with 32 years of dedicated real estate experience, I can help buyers, sellers, investors, short sale sellers and more find, sell or invest in the right property, at the right price, at the right time. Contact me anytime for updates and information on the Columbus OH Real Estate market.