October 27th, 2011
Today a real estate agent/photographer told me that, “..It seems that most agents, including our office manager think that once the agent pays the photographer they own them. I’ve been talking to other photographers and tell me that they retain ownership…”
This illustrates the confusion that is rampent in the real estate community about ownership of photos that professional real estate photographers shoot for agents. Because of this confusion I recommend that real estate photographers clarify there photo licensing and ownership policy in a terms of service document that they have their agent clients initial the first time they do a shoot for an agent.
You can do it either way: give ownership to the agent or retain it yourself but the main point is make it clear what your policy is because unless you tell them most agents will assume they get ownership.
Another exercise real estate photographers need to undertake is to get a copy of your local MLS rules regarding photo ownership and copyright because the act of uploading photos to the MLS makes some legal assertions the agents must comply with. That is, by uploading photos to the MLS the agent is giving the right of the MLS to send all the listing photo to the hundreds of sites the MLS sends it’s listings to.
I like the way open2view.com photographers handle this whole photo ownership issue. They convey ownership of the photos to the agent. I think this is the customer friendly approach. I know this approach is not popular with everyone but I doubt that it makes all that much difference in the long run.
Update: I’ve been corrected what I said about open2view above is incorrect.