Real Estate Photography Question and Answer – Hyperlapse, Zillow Claims Photo Rights?

September 8th, 2014

communityBill’s Question:   Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but… I was interested in your thoughts on the new Hyperlapse App that Instagram released and they were raving about over on activerain?

Answer:  I just downloaded Hyperlapse and tried out Hyperlapse App… While it’s a great iPhone time-lapse App because it allows you to change the frame rate before saving, there is no rocket science involved here. It’s handy if all you use is a smartphone or iPad, but you can do exactly the same thing with any video in most video editing programs (increase the frame rate) to get that stabilization effect.

So this is something I’ll definitely use on my iPhone to take fun video clips, but it’s not something I recommend to anyone for shooting property video. Much better to use a DSLR + wideangle lens + competent video editor and you get much better results!

Ethan’s Question:  I got this message from a good friend who in my opinion is a credible Realtor:

Are any of your photos for homes/listings on Zillow? I learned today that Zillow claims rights to all data/pictures once they are fed to them. It is in their brokerage contracts. Just an FYI that in the real estate world the listing belongs to the brokerage not the agent.

I am not really sure how to answer or address the issue if it is one. What are your thoughts?

Answer: I frankly doubt that Zillow claims any rights to photos, other than use for the duration of the listing in a similar way that MLSs have rights to use the photos for the duration of a listing. Many MLSs in the US claim that the act of uploading photos to the MLS transfers the copyright to the MLS. This is simply not true. Joel Rothman of Schneider Rothman Intellectual Property Law Group, PLLC assures me that the photographer must sign a copyright transfer agreement to transfer copyright. If you have a link to someplace that gives more detail info on this Zillow claim, I’d be happy to check it out with Joel. I’ve discussed this subject at length with Joel and the assertion that many MLSs and sites like Zillow make about owning more rights than simple usage rights for the duration of the listing is flatly illegal.  Has anyone heard of this claim by Zillow?

Randy’s Question:  I have been asked to put together a course on “Photography for Realtors”  This would be for continuing education credit with the Tennessee Association of Realtors.  It would be a three hour course. Are you familiar with anything like this being done across the country?

Answer: I’m aware of several one day classes on the general subject of Photography for Realtors but nothing in the order of 3 credit hours (8 to 10 class room hours). I would be very surprised if you could get enough Realtors consistently in one location to pay the cost of that length of class. Does anyone have this kind of class in their area?

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4 Responses to “Real Estate Photography Question and Answer – Hyperlapse, Zillow Claims Photo Rights?”

  • I am a 30 year photography veteran and for the last 10 years, a Realtor. Naturally I decided to make real estate photography a side business to my real estate business since I love the photography work more. When I was asked to do a class for Realtors at my office, I accepted then discovered on class day that they were only interested in knowing about basic photo techniques. I abandoned my class plan and spent 10 minutes giving basic suggestions to lens choice and where flash and ambient light results needed to be considered…and a few tips on composition and camera level to avoid converging vertical lines. So basically I took all enthusiasm and fun for shooting out of the lesson. I should have done a slide show and taken qiestions.

  • One could absolutely attract real estate agents to a class about real estate photography….as long as the instructor offered free lunch followed by wine tasting followed by a drawing for an all-expense paid vacation for two to the Bahamas. I am a real estate broker and also do my own video and photo work. The majority of brokers in my part of the world cringe at the thought of having to spend money on business cards. Just sayin…

  • It is true that zillow claims photos uploaded onto their site. It’s in their terms and conditions agreement when one signs up for a zillow account:

    3. Materials You Provide; Account Use; Privacy; Third Party Web Sites. For materials you post or otherwise provide to Zillow in connection with the Services (your “Submission”), you grant Zillow an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide license to (a) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, and translate your Submission, in connection with the Services or in any other media, and (b) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Zillow will not pay you for your Submission. Zillow may remove your Submission at any time. For each Submission, you represent that you have all rights necessary to grant Zillow the rights in this paragraph and that the Submission complies with Section 2(a) above…

    I can’t see why they don’t just use their own photos in their commercial endeavors.
    I’m sure this will take more time than it’s worth, but this is what you can do if you see your photos being used:

    9. Claims of Copyright Infringement. Zillow respects the intellectual property rights of others, and asks that everyone using the Services do the same. Anyone who believes that their work has been reproduced on the Services in a way that constitutes copyright infringement may notify Zillow’s copyright agent in accordance with Title 17, United States Code, Section 512(c)(2), by providing the following information:

    Identification of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
    Identification of the material that you claim is infringing and needs to be removed, including a description of where it is located on the Services so that the copyright agent can locate it;
    Your address, telephone number, and, if available, e-mail address, so that the copyright agent may contact you about your complaint; and
    A signed statement that the above information is accurate; that you have a good faith belief that the identified use of the material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; and, under penalty of perjury, that you are the copyright owner or are authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf in this situation.

    Notices of copyright infringement claims should be sent as follows:
    By mail:
    Zillow, Inc.
    1301 Second Avenue, Floor 31
    Seattle, WA 98101
    Attention: Copyright Agent
    By e-mail: copyright@zillow.com
    If you give notice of copyright infringement by text e-mail, Zillow’s copyright agent may begin investigating the alleged copyright infringement; however, we must receive your signed statement by mail or as an attachment to your e-mail before we are required to take any action.

  • @Robyn – To me the rights that Zillow claims in #3:
    “you grant Zillow an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide license to (a) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, and translate your Submission, in connection with the Services or in any other media, and (b) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law.”

    Is completely reasonable for what they are doing as a listing syndicator. The are not claiming they own the copyright like many MLSs in the US do the are just saying they can use the photos to advertise the listing. That’s what Realtors want! I see no issue with the rights they claim.

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