Copyright and licensing of images is confusing!
This is especially the case in Australia, where our extensive copyright laws mean it’s easy to misunderstand what your rights and responsibilities are. However, the consequences of misunderstanding copyright and licensing can be considerable. So it’s important to get it right.
To help you navigate this confusing legal world, I’ve put this post together to delve a little deeper into what real estate photo licensing means for you.
What are You Actually Paying For?
When you pay a real estate photographer to take photos of a property, you might think that you’re buying the photos. However, most of the time, what you’re actually paying for is a licence to use the images. That means that the photos – and copyright for them – remain with the photographer.
How Licensing Protects You
It may not seem immediately obvious, but photo licensing actually helps to protects you. For example, if another agency takes over your listing, they can’t simply take the high quality photos you’ve invested in, because those photos aren’t yours to give them. Licensing also helps to prevent your photos from being misused in other ways. And if they are misused, you don’t have to worry about the legal side of things – you can refer that to the photographer.
Restrictions to Remember
Of course, photo licensing also protects your photographer, so it’s important to know what your responsibilities are.
Because you don’t own the photos, you can’t provide copies to third parties without written permission from your photographer. (“Third parties” could include owners, builders, architects, interior designers, etc.) This is the rule that protects you from having other agencies hijack your photos. However, it’s also important to keep this in mind so that you’re doing the right thing with the photos in your interactions with third parties.
A Cautionary Tale
Because image licensing is so confusing, it can be tempting not to worry about it. However, the outcome of several small claims court cases suggests this isn’t the best attitude to have.
Recently, a real estate agent contacted their photographer to say that another agency, which had taken over a listing, was now using the photographer’s images. When the photographer contacted the agency to ask for payment so they could use the images legally, the agency refused. Ultimately, the small claims court awarded the photographer a fee ten times the price of the photos, plus costs. In this case, licensing protected the (original) agent as much as the photographer. But the story also illustrates the importance of following the law!
Keep to the Rules and You’ll Be Fine
So long as you’re careful to ask permission to share your real estate photos with any third parties, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
And if you want to be doubly sure? I’m yet to meet a real estate photographer who isn’t happy to explain your licensing rights and responsibilities to you. So don’t be shy – ask!
Got any general questions about real estate photo licensing? Then let me know in the comments below!
(Please be aware that the advice in this blog post and in the comments below is general in nature, and provided in good faith. It should not be considered professional legal advice.)
What Does DRE’s Photo Licence Include?
At Digital Real Estate, we provide you, the original listing agent, with a 6-month, royalty-free licence to use the images and floor plans we provide to you. If you need an extension on this time period, or you want to share the images with a third party, you can apply to us in writing.