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Apr. 25, 2018

5 Tips to Understanding Photo Copyrights in Real Estate

It’s very important for brokers and agents to understand how to obtain the copyrights to their listing photography as well as how to avoid violations. This topic of copyrights is a hot one in the real estate industry due to the many lawsuits around the country.  

MiRealSource has provided advice, education, and resources for our members to utilize in this area.

Copyrights Tips

1. Paying for Photos Does Not Mean You Own Them:

Just because you hire (pay) a photographer to photograph your listings does not mean you own them to do whatever you want, for however long, or to make any modifications. The photo copyrights reside with the person who “clicked” the shutter—whether that person was a friend, the seller, or a professional photographer. A prepared photographer may provide a basic, limited licensing agreement for use of the photos which can be limited for a duration of time and may not encompass all possible aspects your photos can or will be used in the future. Therefore, it is important for agents and brokers to obtain the full transfer of copyrights to their listing photographs.

2. MiRealSource Provides Sample Copyright Agreements:

These sample agreements are available in the following locations—on our website, within Instanet, or inMLS Docs in Paragon. Go ahead and edit the language to cover all of your listings or a specific listing. 

The Agreements Include: Photographer to Agent Copyright Agreement; Photographer to Broker Agreement; or a Joint Ownership Agreement—where the photographer and agent both have FULL copyrights.

3. Brokers Must Also Obtain Copyrights from Agents:

There is a chain of events that must occur to protect photos in the industry. First, brokers are the owner of real estate data. We suggest the principal broker have “language” in their Independent Contractor Agreement between the broker and the agent—which states ownership of real estate data, including photographs, is transferred to the broker.

Many of our brokers have already adopted this within the Independent Contractor Agreements provided. However, if you are a principal broker and have not adopted this, we also have sample language drafted by our attorney to add. The sample language can be found on our website, within Instanet, or in MLS Docs in Paragon.

4. MiRealSource Provides the DMCA Protection to Brokers to OPT IN:

The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Take-Down Disclaimer is a benefit we offer to brokers who opted in. This Disclaimer provides protection if photos without appropriate copyrights are used, and claims are made stating specific photos violates basic copyright laws. Having the DMCA disclaimer allows the broker to take the photos down before a lawsuit can be filed.

5. Five Recommended Unique Photography Companies:

For those who do not know where to get started when it comes to hiring a professional photography company, we’ve established five (soon to be six) relationships with photography companies that offer unique services. If you have a photographer you’d like to work with, continue that working relationship with copyrights in mind. We will occasionally add a company that offers unique services from one another. The companies listed have an approved business model and agree to MiRealSource’s sample language of copyrights, quality and service.

The Recommended Photography Companies Include: PlanOmatic, Aerius Flight, TrueSpaces, BoxBrownie, & Mi Real Estate Photography. Upon hire, it is still the agent or broker’s responsibility to provide the copyright language for the photographer to sign (Not applicable for BoxBrownie). 


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