Intellectual Property

Real Estate Photography and Copyright Law

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Copyright and Real Estate Photography

What You Need to Know About Copyright Laws and Real Estate Photography

I’m sure we’ve all encountered times where we need a picture for a post or advertisement and, if we’re in a rush and don’t have an image handy, we may think “Ah – Google Images.” However, be careful where you get your images from and how you use them. Any photographs that you find online are owned by the photographer that took the picture. There are free sites for stock photos online, but most content managers say these free pictures are not high-quality enough to use for their website.

Using an image that you find on Google is okay only if you have obtained permission from the owner of the image. Maybe you wonder what could really happen if you just use it one time? Many people are finding that they are getting sued for thousands of dollars for using photos without permission. In one recent case a man was successfully sued by a photographer for $37,000 for using one image without the photographer’s permission.

You may wonder how any of this would apply to real estate photography. You’re not likely going to Google search for an image of a home you’re selling. There are other ways that you could unintentionally infringe on another photographer’s copyright protection thought.

Here are the three most common ways real estate agents may unknowingly violate copyright protection:
1.   If you take over a property listing from another agent and continue to use the photography that the previous agent had used to promote the property.
2.   If you’re selling a property that is in a homeowner’s association or a condo, using photos provided by the management company of common areas can be copyright infringement.
3.   Using public photos of images in the area of the property to highlight the local town or schools.

You should always assume that all photography is copyright protected and proceed with that in mind.

How do realtors ensure that they’re not using copyrighted photographs and breaking the law?

There are only two ways to safely obtain photographs for your listings:
1.   Take the photos yourself. At a very minimum you likely have a smart phone that you can use to capture images. If you’ve taken the photograph you own it and the rights to it and can use it any way you please.
2.   Hire a professional real estate photographer. Hiring a professional real estate photographer will ensure that you’ve got professional images that capture your listing in the best way to attract buyers, as well as allow you to share those images without concerns about copyrights.

Does hiring a professional real estate photographer mean you can use the images they give you as often as you want and wherever you want? In a word – no. Each real estate photographer will offer different packages and price points that determine how long you have the rights to the photos and when and where you are able to share the images.

When you purchase a photography package from your real estate photographer they will provide you with the specific parameters of use for your pictures, a license. Just like you can’t make copies of DVD movies that you buy or reproduce music you hear on the radio and sell it, you cannot do as you please with the photographs, unless your photographer has given you complete rights in your license. Make sure you check with your photographer on the specifications of your contract with them.



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