In the ever-evolving landscape of real estate marketing, captivating visuals play a crucial role in showcasing properties and attracting potential buyers.
There have been recent cases of photographers taking legal action against real estate agents. There is a common “made for hire” misconception that paying for real estate photography equates to ownership, but this is far from true.
Copyright law is complicated, but the key take-away is that images belong to their creator. Brokers need explicit written permission to use these materials for marketing purposes, and to allow them to be retained for long-term use and distribution within the WVMLS system, including dissemination to third-party platforms.
We recommend consulting an attorney. In the meantime, here are a few key points to help avoid liability:
1. Ownership Clarification
Hiring a photographer does not automatically grant ownership of their work. A written agreement with the photographer is necessary to secure appropriate usage rights.
When an image is uploaded to the system, the listing broker grants WVMLS ongoing usage permissions, so it’s critical they HAVE those rights to assign.
A photo release agreement should speak not only to usage during active marketing time, but also for long-term use and distribution by WVMLS.
2. Types of Agreements
There are many ways to structure property photo agreements. Make sure yours covers you for your intended uses.
All Rights - the photographer might assign you all rights, title and interest, including copyright to images made for hire.
Assignment of Specific Rights - the photographer might retain the original copyright but grant you usage rights for WVMLS property compilations (current and sold), advertising and marketing, public display, distribution, reproduction, in print and on the Internet, and otherwise.
Remember, a clear and comprehensive release agreement not only protects the rights of photographers but also safeguards your professional reputation and ensures a smooth and lawful marketing process. We found this article, which provides a few sample agreements to discuss with your photographer and your legal counsel.