April 13th, 2014
Multiple Listing Services (MLS) provide a valuable regulatory service in the real estate industry. They create rules and legal forms that guide the advertising and sale of all property in a given geographic area.
In most metropolitan areas professional photography has become an integral part of the listing and sale of real estate and many Realtors make use of professional photographers to create marketing materials yet most MLSs in the US completely ignore photographers rights. Here are a 3 important rights of that Realtors and MLSs need to honor:
- Professional photographers own the copyright to the photos they take for listing agents even if they don’t file copyright with the US copyright office.
- Many photographers resell the photos, to builders, architects, designers and others. For some photographers, this is a significant source of income.
- Because of 2, when photographers shoot listing photos for a listing agent they expect to license those photos for use limited to the advertising and sale of the property by the agent they shot the photos for.
Because so few Realtors and MLSs understand copyright most professional real estate photographers have their own license agreement that documents the above three rights.
Typical MLS rules for most MLSs in the US completely ignore and/or contradict photographer’s photo rights. This situation causes endless confusion and misunderstandings between photographers, Realtors. The worst cases get sorted out in litigation. These misunderstandings arise from the fact that when most MLS rules were written when Realtors took their own photos and didn’t really care about photo rules and the rules are written to only protect the only the MLS and it’s members. Because the rights of photographers are not considered, the photo licensing rules for most MLSs are completely dysfunctional and broken!
Professional photographers are now becoming such an integral part of the real estate marketing process that their rights and interests need to be incorporated into MLS photo rules. MLSs need to update their photo rules to serve the interests of all parties involved in real estate transactions just like the rest of their rules do. Doing so is simply in keeping with the MLS role as a real estate regulatory service.
Why is it better to have MLSs provide a standard photo licensing agreement than to have each photographer do their own? Because Realtors and managing brokers believe MLS forms and lawyers. MLS forms are used and trusted for every other part of the real estate transaction. There have been cases where Realtors have stopped using a particular professional photographer because the photographer would not use the licensing form provided by the MLS. Some managing brokers tell their agents they must use the MLS forms. Yet the particular MLS form is not in the interest of photographers.
It is time that MLSs start including professional photographers rights in the real estate transaction. This is not rocket science, all that needs to happen is MLSs need to acknowledge that professional photographers are frequently part of the real estate transaction!