Photos That Are Uploaded To MLSs Propagate To Thousands Of Sites

November 1st, 2016

syndicationPeter in Seattle asked:

I’m sure you covered this topic somewhere but I could not find it. I was checking in with a friend of mine and I wanted to send him some shots I did of a home. The files were too big so I just gave him the MLS number. Wondering what would happen if he just googled the MLS number, I did it and to my surprise, my photos were in about 12 different real estate firms. Let’s see now, I was paid by only one firm. Is this normal?

Yes, if you shoot images for a listing agent and they upload those images to their local MLS then those images will automatically be spread around (syndicated) to all the local broker sites, regional sites and national sites.

This process is referred to as real estate listing syndication. For more details on how this works see this site.

As long as the listing you shot is active your listing photos will be on far more than 12 sites. It’s more like thousands of real estate sites. Here is a list of the national, regional and affiliate sites that listings get syndicated to. This doesn’t even include all the brokerage office sites or Realtor sites. Individual Realtors can get a feed of all the listings for their local area (called an IDX feed) for their personal sites. This is the way online real estate marketing works. The theory is the more sites that have the listing on the more potential home buyers eyes you get on the listing.

When listing agents upload their listing photos to the MLS they get to make a choice if they want their listing syndicated. Back in 2012, there was an agent movement against syndication but I think it disappeared. In the end analysis, it’s in the home seller’s best interest to advertise the listing as much as possible. Sure there are abuses in this current real estate listing syndication process. But most listing agents think it gets the job done.

So in summary, your photo licensing agreement with your listing agent clients needs to allow syndication because it all happens automatically if listing agents allow syndication of their listings and most listing agents do choose to syndicate their listings.

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2 Responses to “Photos That Are Uploaded To MLSs Propagate To Thousands Of Sites”

  • As Larry stated, it is common practice for listings to get spread out to a great many web sites so it’s a good idea to go into licensing RE photos with the mind set that this is going to happen. My license to the customer allows using the photos to market the home but they are not allowed to resell or transfer the images to a third party. I also allow agents to use the images on their own web site and advertising materials to advertise themselves. If the customer is not a broker, the office must license images separately. National franchisers also must secure their own license (at much greater cost since the value is much higher).

    Allowing images to be syndicated does not mean that you are placing the images in the public domain. If another entity takes the images and uses them in their advertising, that’s copyright infringement. If your customer loses the listing, the next agent is not automatically licensed to use the images. They must contact you to purchase a license. The home owner has no rights to the images and “property” has no right of privacy. You can register all of your images within 90 days of first publication for a flat fee of $55 with the Copyright office for full protection. If your images are not registered, you may not be able to file against them in court. If the infringer is a national franchiser, they will know that you don’t have a leg to stand on if you can’t show a registration. You still own the Copyright, but there isn’t much you can do to protect your assets. It is recommended that you register all, and I mean all, of your images. Not just the ones that you deliver.

  • Peter, I’m not sure why you are surprised. That is standard practice in the business and you do need to understand standard practices in the business you are in.

    Now just imagine, and this is where I think I differ slightly from what Ken Brown mentioned in his response, what would your images be worth if they were not allowed to be syndicated. I’ll answer that for you. Almost nothing. The power of the MLS, where all agents send their images, is syndication. That’s it period. No syndication then no MLS. No MLS no standards based RE listings. No standards based listings, you have no market.

    So to me the question is not so much “How much should I charge because they are syndicating my images?” Rather what will the market bear for my images. It’s a big market not a small market like local builders or Arch Agency.

    It’s a big market with a lot of players in it both buyers (of your images) and sellers (of similar images). The market is a syndicated market. Understand it and develop a product and workflow with the margins that you can both sell and live with. You can’t fight it and frankly your images are not that valuable after the property is sold and you are protected by the Realtor board and many MLS practices from having you images stolen by another agent (that is the most common happening). They will go after them for you. For me that’s as good or better than throwing a hissy fit if someone uses your images without permission or if they are syndicated as all these images are anyway.

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