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With photos, know before you publish

SAN DIEGO – Nov. 16, 2015 – It’s second nature to include photos in property listings – often the more photos the better. But before copying and pasting photos – or authorizing anyone else to use them – Realtors should understand the basics of copyright law before contacting a photographer.
“Displaying photos of properties online is now a vital part of the real estate professional’s marketing plan,” says National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Associate Counsel Chloe Hecht. “The Internet, however, makes copyright infringement easy,” because content available online can easily be taken, used and distributed without authorization.
Real estate professionals need to consider that the rights to use a photo are linked to multiple factors, including who took the photo and under what terms, Hecht said. “Property listing photos are taken by different people with different roles in the transaction, and the rights to use those photos are transferred in different ways,” she said. “The result is a fractured landscape of authorship and conveyance.”
Hecht spoke at a legal education seminar at the Realtors Conference and Expo in San Diego last week. She pointed to a pair of ongoing lawsuits that illustrate the risk of using photos without nailing down the copyright particulars in advance.
In one case, Zillow is fighting a suit brought by VHT Inc., which alleges that Zillow has photos on its Digs home-design website that VHT says it owns.
In the other case, a Texas real estate broker and professional photographer is in a dispute with online real estate brokerage Redfin. Both participate in the same Texas multiple listing service. The suit brings up core issue: Whether the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects website operators like Redfin, which hosts material posted by third parties. It also focuses on the ramifications of using a “share” button without getting permission from the originator of the material.
For guidance on how to capture a copyright, including sample agreements, visit realtor.org/capture on NAR’s website.
Source: Realtor Magazine Daily News
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