Copyright for Brokers

Copyright for Brokers

Real estate brokers have a lot to think about, including who owns the right to their images. This is a critical issue, as the original ownership of images can often be a matter of dispute and can expose brokers to unnecessary risk.

What's important to keep in mind is who took the picture in the first place. If your brokerage hires professional photographers to take pictures of your listings, it's not guaranteed that you will own the images outright, unless the photographer explicitly assigns ownership to your firm.

Why does it matter?

Right and Ownership

Other than ensuring that photographers are paid fairly for their work, it matters because when you or your agents upload photos to the MLS, you're representing that you have the right to and ownership of the images at hand. In fact, Stellar MLS's rules spell this out in no uncertain terms:

Article 14.1: Submittal of Listing. By the act of submitting any property listing content to the MLS, the Participant represents that: They have been authorized to license and also thereby does license authority for the MLS to include the property listing content in its copyrighted MLS compilation and also in any statistical report on “comparables”.

Article 14.2: Copyright. All right, title, and interest in each copy of every compilation created and copyrighted by the member Association or Stellar MLS and in the copyrights therein, shall at all times remain vested in the member Association or Stellar MLS.

Article 14.3: MLS Compilation. Each participant shall be entitled to lease from the Stellar Multiple Listing Services a number of electronic and/or printed copies of each MLS compilation sufficient to provide the participant and each person affiliated as a licensee (including licensed or certified appraisers) with such participant with one copy of such compilation. The participant shall pay for each such copy the rental fee set by the Stellar Multiple Listing Services.

Best Practices

The first rule of thumb is to never post any image that you do not own or have permission to use. If you're not sure you have permission, don't post the image, plain and simple. You can clarify your rights to the image by referring to the contract you have with your photographer.

If you want more information about how to protect yourself against copyright claims, check our REALTOR® Magazine's article about copyright claims and how to avoid them.

It's also good practice to follow a few rules when hiring a photographer. Start by finding a photographer you can talk with, who understands the nature of real estate and how you intend to use the images. Then, make sure that they're insured since no photographer should get anywhere near your listings if they are not. Finally, check the quality of their work. Ask your colleagues for referrals.