It goes without saying that images are vital to real estate marketing. When it comes to property photos, we upload them to our brokerage site, send them to the MLS, syndicate them to numerous other industry sites, and use them in our advertisements – both online and in print.
However, who actually has permission to use a photograph and where? Who does the copyright belong to? The owner of the house, the photographer, the brokerage, the agent, the MLS? Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear and, like most intellectual property, the laws are a bit murky.
Legal advice aside, here are some questions you might want to consider when using property photos in your marketing materials:
- Has the seller consented to having their house photographed?
- In your contract with your photographer, have you agreed to how the photograph can be used and distributed?
- Does your relationship with your brokerage or MLS grant them certain distribution rights? Do they align with your agreement with your photographer?
- Do you have permission to use photos in print, online and in social media?
- Does your photographer give you permission to alter the photos in any way? Can you crop them? Instagram them?
Another tricky situation is with advertising SOLD properties. While you may ask the listing agent to use one of their photos, getting permission from both the photographer who took the photo and the seller is something many don’t consider – and failure to get consent can land you in hot water. Recently, we were contacted by a photographer who saw his photos being used on one of our agent’s “Just Sold” postcards. While we were able to resolve that particular issue amicably, some photographers might not be as understanding.
Moral of the story: If you do not own the rights or have permission to use a photo – you shouldn’t be using it in your advertising. Only by consulting all parties involved can you protect yourself.
For more information about using non-property photos in your marketing, see this post: Beautiful Images Ugly Copyright Violations and Fee.
About Author:Dan Mirsky began his career with Alain Pinel Realtors (APR) in 2003 and brings over 10 years of marketing, advertising and communications experience to the company. In his current role as the firm’s Director of Marketing, he is responsible for defining the corporate marketing strategy and communicating that message across multiple channels – both internal and external.