Who owns listing photographs and how can they be protected?

by Steve Randall14 Sep 2017
When real estate agents or third-party photographers take images of clients’ homes, they as the photographer usually own the copyright.

However, once the images appear on listings there are those who think it’s fair game to use them for any purpose they like. This can be due to misunderstanding the law – some people believe if it appears on Google Images they can use it – or by other misuse of intellectual property.

The non-profit Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) is hoping to attract more real estate professionals to work with it to help establish and communicate licensing guidelines that benefit all interested parties as well as provide some common language around standard uses and restrictions.  

The DMLA says that following recent court cases, such as VHT Studios v. Zillow, photographers and other content creators are not being properly compensated for excessive uses of real estate agents’ images including some that have not appeared on listings.
Zillow was found guilty of willful copyright infringement by a jury and ordered to pay over four million dollars to VHT Studios in statutory damages following an appeal which slashed the original $8 million damages awarded.

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