Beware the photos you use!

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I’ve seen different articles and posts about photos rights, and people using photos from a previous listing or another agent. Some people think their MLS has rights to any photos in their system, so they think it’s okay. But just because someone previously uploaded them to the MLS doesn’t mean they have rights to the photos.

Here’s an interesting article about a photographer who went after an agent for using a photo of his without permission - and was awarded $1,000 for a single image. But read the article closely, it references another case from last year where a photographer was awarded $12 million from a real estate company who used multiple images without permission.

The moral of the story: Unless you took the photos yourself, find who has rights to them before you use them at all. Even if you hired a professional photographer, odds are you only have limited usage rights. You typically don’t own those photos outright.



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Comments (19)

Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

Good advice....I too have used old photos of listings, I've also seen pictures of mine used on another listing because they are the same model. I never gave it any thought. Yikes.

Aug 22, 2009 04:25 AM
Cynthia Smitherman
Emage` Fine Properties, LLC - Chandler, AZ

Thank you for that informtion.  I have used other photos from MLS, simply because they had a better angle on the home than I.  I will make sure I am not violating.

Aug 22, 2009 04:28 AM
Russel Ray, San Diego Business & Marketing Consultant & Photographer
Russel Ray - San Diego State University, CA

Our MLS down here specifically prohibits using another agent's photos for any purpose whatsoever. Violations can result in being terminated from the MLS, which would not be good in my opinion.

Aug 22, 2009 06:31 PM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Karen: Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it can be a serious issue. And this is a topic photographers seem to discuss a lot.

Hi Cynthia: You're welcome. More and more I'm seeing articles and posts about plagiarizing photos. So, it is something to watch out for.

Hi Russel: Thanks for stopping by. I think your MLS has it right. Some of them allow it, claiming the original agent singed rights over to them when they uploaded.

Aug 22, 2009 10:21 PM
Tom Boos
Sine & Monaghan Realtors, Real Living - Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
Providing the very best of service to Sellers and

Thanks for reminding us that taking shortcuts by "borrowing" someone else's work can BACKFIRE, bigtime.  Do your own work. . . take your own photos.

Aug 24, 2009 01:30 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Tom: You're welcome. And thank you for the comment. You're right, 'borrowing' can have some pretty serious consequences.

Aug 24, 2009 04:46 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate Brokered by Real - St. George, UT
So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR

Thank you for the much needed post Michael. I offer to pay a reasonable price for professional pics or ask permission to use their photos...for example if I list a house that was previously furnished and is now empty. An empty house does not show well. Other than that, I take my own's the right thing to do!

Aug 24, 2009 07:40 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Wanda: Thank you for the comment. I think the way you're doing t is exactly the right way to go. And even if someone hires a professional photographer, they need to make sure what rights they have. Because, unless it's a 'work-for-hire' contract, the photographer is the one who owns the photos.

Aug 25, 2009 01:43 AM
Amanda Smith
Allison James Estates & Homes Elite - Hemet, CA

I have previosly worked as a photographer.  It is very frustrating when others use your photos without your permission.  That is how they earn a living.  As an agent nothing frustrates me more than doing another agents work and getting nothing for it.  I'm sure the photographer feels the same.

Aug 25, 2009 06:13 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Amanda: You're right. But not only is it frustrating, as you can see from the article, some photographers are starting to take action -and are getting results. Thank you for the comment.

Aug 25, 2009 07:27 AM
Michael Yearout
Michael Yearout Photography - Breckenridge, CO
Michael Yearout Photography

Michael:  well said.  I just had this happen to me.  A listing changed hands and the previous listing decided to "give" the photography I had done for him/her to the new agent, even though I had a signed licensing agreement with the previous agent that allowed him/her to use the photos only for so long as he/she had the listing - ownership and copyright stayed with me the photographer.

It ended up well.  I contacted the new agent (who is also a client of mine) and gently explaned the situation.  She/he and I agreed on a reasonalble licensing fee for her/him to use the photographs.

AND, our local association of Realtors has a specific rule against "lifting" photos from other Realtors and using them as their own.  Fines, etc. if they do so.

Thanks again for the educational post.


Sep 04, 2009 08:53 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Michael: Thanks for the comment. I think a lot of people may just be in the dark, and don't really know whether they have full rights to photos or not. But I think your local board has the right idea in not allowing anyone to 'lift' photos from a previous listing.

Sep 06, 2009 12:41 AM
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

I see this post is from a little while back, but it's great that you brought this issue to light! So many people don't realize using someone else's photos is the same as pirating software or music. It's a violation of copyright. Thanks!

Nov 20, 2009 02:43 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Deena: I think you're right. I don't know that people necessarily realize what they're doing, but it can be a serious matter. Thanks for the comment.

Nov 24, 2009 12:21 AM
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate

"But...  But... If it's "Wrong" to steal, why does a "Right Click" let me "Copy and Paste?"


Thanks for the post, Michael.  I have chased a few of my own humble photos.

Dec 30, 2009 01:26 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Mike: Hmmm...good point. I wonder how a judge might respond to that?  : )

Dec 30, 2009 01:47 AM
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate


Uh-h-h... I insist.  You go first.  Let us know how you make out with that one.

Dec 30, 2009 02:10 AM
Michele Rose
Rose-Colored Staging - Mount Holly Township, NJ
Burlington County Home Staging & Redesign

Thanks for posting this.  I am really shocked at how many agents use other agent's photos.  I really work hard to get the best photos I can for a listing and can't imagine using someone else's work without permission.

Jan 05, 2010 09:47 AM
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Mike: Oh, all right. I'll let you know how it goes. (lol)

Hi Michele: Thanks for the comment. And I know what you mean. It seems pretty obvious to me too that you shouldn't use other people's stuff without permission.

Jan 06, 2010 12:33 AM