June 14th, 2015
Today I got a call to shoot a listing, which by chance I had already shot several months ago. It turned out that this home had been completely remodeled by a “flipper”, so it would indeed need to be re-shot.
This got me thinking about a couple things:
1) What is a “standard” charge for licensing of images after the home sells and is back on the market? (assuming nothing has changed and doesn’t require a re-shoot)
2) Short of “web surfing” location addresses for a sale, does anyone have a way of making sure their images are not being reused by another agent?
Charge For Image Reuse:
My take on a reuse charge is to charge the same for every licensing of the same images. Or if this bothers you charge slightly less since you don’t have to make another trip to the property. What do others charge for reusing images?
How To Find Illegal Uses Of Your Real Estate Images:
There’s good news and bad news on this one. The good news is you can just google the address of a current or past listing to find almost all real estate uses of your images. For example, my wife and I sold a rental property in January of 2012. So if I google “7318 Fairway Ave, Snoqualmie, WA” I find that long after the sale closed my listing images are still all over the net. Zillow.com is using all of them, Movoto.com has all of them, Realtor.com has just the front exterior, Ziprealty.com has all of them, Joyce Lowe, a Seattle Realtor, has the front exterior photo on her site and Landcast.com has the exterior shot. So if a new listing agent were to list this property, it would take about 10 minutes to get a set of listing photos for free from Zillow.com or Movoto.com that shows this property as it was in 2012. If you do this same search while the property is on the market you’d, of course, find every site that the images were being used. I’ve checked a few listings that I’ve shot for local Realtors here in Oregon within the last year and found some sold listings with all my photos on Redfin, but not Zillow.com. I can’t find any consistent pattern to which sites keep photos after the sale, but there are many sites that do. There seems to be more sites that think they can just keep the front exterior shot. MLSs frequently claim they can use the front exterior shot forever so MLS rules are probably at the root of this widespread use of front exterior shots. Also, my local MLS says it can “retain and disseminate photos in perpetuity.” My guess is that other sites are similar.
I also used tineye.com and google image search to find photos for our Snoqualmie, WA listing. Tineye didn’t find any of these issues I describe above and google image search found some of the photos.
The bad news is, it’s going to be very difficult to identify whether the photos you find for a given listing you’ve shot in an infringer or not because typically only the agent’s broker site and perhaps a public MLS site will show who the real listing agent for the listing is. I’m not even sure if all these sites that keep photos after a sale is closed is a copyright infringement. It certainly facilitates future listing agents using the photos without permission.
I asked Joel Rothman, a PFRE reader and contributor, who is an intellectual property attorney in Florida who specializes in real estate and MLS related law where are the legal lines on sites using your photos in perpetuity? Joel said he will write something on this, so that will be the subject of a future PFRE blog post. Joel says it’s not a simple issue. More on that later.
It’s quite easy to find listing photos that you’ve shot for any given address either while it’s on the market or after it’s been on the market. Then what are you going to do from there? And how much time and energy will this take? You may, or may not, be able to identify if the listing agent using the photos is different than the agent you licensed to use the photos. My guess is that for the amount of effort you’ll spend searching for infringers, your time would be better spent training your clients about photo licensing and making sure you have a signed license agreement.