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Do You Need A Release From The Property Owner Publish A Photo You Shot of Their Home?

April 18th, 2012

Vail, CO Realtor and photographer John Nilsson recently used the new Lightroom 4 book creation feature to create a Blurb book that is a compilation of work the has done in the last four years for local Vail brokers. A nice piece of work John!

John posed the following legal questions:

  1. Do I need to get past or present owner permission to publish photos of their homes in this book?
  2. The intent is that the book not be for resale.  If I want to sell the book, does this change the permission required?

First I want to be clear that I not a lawyer and am not giving legal advice, I’m just referring to advice given on this subject at ASMP.org (American Society of Media Photographers). Law in other countries may very. This reference only applies in the US and it may vary from state to state in the US. That is, I’m not sure if  this question is settled at the state level applies outside the state.

Here is the reference that explains this issue that I’m basing the following on: Using Property Releases By Richard Weisgrau and Victor S. Perlman. Below is my summary of the reference.

There is no simple yes or no answer to the question of needing a property release. The ASMP has never seen a statute or a legal case that requires a release for property and although there are theories on why someone might file a suit for publishing and/or selling a photo of their home without their explicit permission (association or conversion as explained in the reference) the authors know of no case that has ever settled those kinds of questions. The ASMP advises that property releases be acquired whenever possible because they don’t want to see you be the test case.

For the full detail be sure to read the  complete reference carefully. John’s first question relates to the concept of association, and his second one relates to conversion as explained in the reference.

In conclusion: Get a property release if you can but if you can’t you’re pretty safe since there has never been any case law that has settled the question of  whether you really need a release.

As usual we would all like to hear other’s experiences in this area.

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5 Responses to “Do You Need A Release From The Property Owner Publish A Photo You Shot of Their Home?”

  • We find sometimes when a agent asks us to post to Facebook, craigslist, and other social media sites, the owner gets very upset if they haven’t given their explicit permission even if it is in a contract with the real estate agent. There to be safe – we get a sign off from the owners if we post to a social media site even though the pictures are purchased by the agents.
    Also, be sure to remove any postings you made once the house has sold. That is another sore point with owners and real estate agents.

  • The question is who is the property owner? The one who is selling it, the one who bought it, the one who owned it before the current owner or the one who might buy it next? Just shoot any lawyers that come your way….

    If I have to spend my time running around getting signatures from agents on who owns the photos, the home owner, the artist of the paintings on the wall, etc., I won’t have time to shoot the home.

  • It seems that the release is always about the current owner. Allowing us “photographers” to show all of the personal items, space, and life style. It would reflect that we just need to extend the professional courtesy to seek permission to show off the “stuff”. In almost every case I have encountered the same statement from home owners, ” you want to show off my place? That’s great, will you let me know when it is used, and for what. For me thats a great way to extend my circle of influence.

  • I’m trying to get started in real estate photography. I don’t yet have a dedicated website for this. For images to include in my online portfolio, do I need a signed property release?

  • @Danny – As I said in the post: The ASMP has never seen a statute or a legal case that requires a release for property and although there are theories on why someone might file a suit for publishing and/or selling a photo of their home without their explicit permission (association or conversion as explained in the reference) the authors know of no case that has ever settled those kinds of questions. The ASMP advises that property releases be acquired whenever possible because they don’t want to see you be the test case.

    So you are pretty safe with out one.

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