FLORIDA REALTORS: Photos Are Intellectual Property But ‘Stolen’ All the Time

By Press release submission | | Dec 9, 2019

Florida Realtors issued the following announcement on Dec. 6.

Many Realtors consider photographs “part of the listing data” that they can re-use – but they’re not. Photos enjoy copyright protection just like written articles, and more Realtors and photo companies are pursuing their rights and even filing lawsuits for photo misuse.

It’s not unusual for Shannon Hall to be scrolling through her social media news feeds and find agents from other firms sharing listing photos that belong to her agents. “I find images weekly that agents share on Facebook or Instagram from their personal and business pages,” says Hall, broker-owner of Dwellings by Rudy & Hall, outside of Detroit. “A lot of them don’t realize they can’t use images they don’t own.”

When she spots a photo that she believes an agent doesn’t have the rights or license to use, she makes a call. She explains the issue and asks them to remove the photo from their page. If she can’t get through, or if the agent won’t cooperate, she contacts the broker. But even outreach to broker-owners can be an exercise in frustration if they aren’t vigilant about monitoring misuses or taking action, says Hall. “Most brokers are [not paying attention to] what their agents do on social media.”

Knowing how important attractive, high-quality photography is for marketing properties, real estate pros may spend considerable time on obtaining great listing photos but overlook some critical legal aspects, including who owns the photos and videos and who has the right to give others permission to use these images or videos. But ignoring questions of legal ownership is wrong and poses serious legal risks.

Real estate is in a similar state as the publishing and music industries of the early 2000s, when the internet and the proliferation of digital content forced those businesses to readdress intellectual property laws and licensing as illegal music downloads escalated. Now real estate photographers are grappling with similar copyright and permissions issues related to the unchecked use of images showing up on websites and social media feeds. Copyright law not only protects the rights to images, it also protects the original work from being substantially altered, which can be construed as misrepresentation.

“Photographs get lumped in with listing data, but they’re not listing data; they’re intellectual property, and there are laws that govern how they’re used,” says Brian Balduf, CEO of VHT Studios, the nation’s largest real estate photography service and a leader in the burgeoning movement to crack down on misuses. Copyright statutes say that the person who creates a work owns it and can transfer rights only through writing.

Original source can be found here.

Source: Florida Realtors

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