The Internet is a big, big place, and many Realtors® believe that it’s somewhat of a free-for-all. However, that’s not the case; actually, you could find yourself paying a pretty penny if you use someone else’s listing photographs or information as your own.
Can You Use Another Realtor’s Photos?
A couple of recent court cases involving Realtors using photos that they didn’t own didn’t work out too well for the offending agents. It’s much cheaper to take your own photos or purchase them outright than to end up paying a court-ordered fine (plus court fees) if you’re found guilty of infringing someone else’s copyright.
And just for the record, as soon as you click the shutter button, the resulting photo is copyrighted and belongs to you.
Why You Shouldn’t Want to Use Another Realtor’s Photos
Aside from the fact that using another agent’s photos on your listing is considered stealing, there are several reasons you shouldn’t want to use them.
First, you’re not doing your clients any favors. It’s your job to find the most attractive angles, the most unique shots and the best views so you can spark interest in your clients’ properties. When people searching for properties see the same photos on every website, there’s nothing left to make you stand out.
Second, you can use photography as a selling point for your services. We already know that high-resolution photos bring in more money, and you can let your clients know that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get them as much as possible on the sale.
When it’s Okay to Use Online Photos
If you have written express permission from the owner, you’re allowed to use pictures you find online. You can also use them if they’re licensed for public use under Creative Commons. Beware of trolling through the internet looking for photos, taking a screen shot and using them on your website. It is not uncommon to have to pay a fine well over $1000 for unauthorized use of copyrighted images. In many cases, people post photos you’re allowed to use as long as you give them credit in a prominent place; some also require a link back to their website. When in doubt, ask permission!
If Someone Uses Your Photos Without Permission
It’s illegal for someone to use your photographs without permission. In most cases, Realtors are simply unaware that they’re doing anything wrong; a simple phone call to request they take your photos down usually resolves the issue with no hard feelings.
However, it’s not always that easy. If you’re absolutely sure that it’s your photo and it’s being used by someone else, and the agent won’t remove the photos him- or herself, contact the website hosting company and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act form. You can also contact an attorney if you’re not making any headway.
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