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Licensing Agreement for Zillow Certified Photographers

March 29th, 2018

James recently asked the following question about the Zillow Certified Photographer agreement:

You’ve covered Zillow topics before and I actually got the idea to pursue their “Zillow Certified Photographer” status from PFRE. After shooting the required number of walk-through videos, I’ve been granted that “privilege” of being a Zillow Certified Photographer but the agreement they’re asking me to sign has me a little concerned. Under “License to images”, it states:

“Participant hereby grants Zillow a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, display, distribute, publicly perform and sublicense all images. Participant further grants Zillow the non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual right to use participants name, likeness, image, voice and/or appearance (collectively, “Participant’s Likeness”) to the extent such Participant’s Likeness is embodied in an image.”

My contact at Zillow says that I would simply be agreeing to the right for them to display my images, but not being a lawyer, I’m suspicious. What are readers thoughts on this?

Yes, from a photographers point of view this seems a little excessive for giving them the right to display your images but this is similar to most social media agreements. They make it extreme to cover everything, and make it simple for them to enforce. I think you have to decide if being Zillow Certified is worth giving away all your rights. Apparently, being Zillow Certified does generate a lot of business.

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11 Responses to “Licensing Agreement for Zillow Certified Photographers”

  • Now I’m wondering what the best-lowest quality is for social media? Where the image is super small in size and volatile if transferred or duplicated or converted. If there’s even such a file type.

  • What you have to consider is that A) you are giving them the right to do ANYTHING they want with your photographs, not just marketing the home for sale on behalf of your client, B) more importantly, you’d be giving them the right to sublicense to ANYONE/EVERYONE, to also use your photographs for any purpose they want. And, they can charge people for those sublicenses. If you think they are paying you enough based on all the ways they can and will monetize your work, and that your clients are OK with a third party sublicensing your photographs to any number of other 3rd parties, then you’re ok. I won’t get into my opinions here but if you’re interested, you can read about our copyright infringement lawsuit against Zillow. http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2017/02/13/zillow-ordered-pay-83m-in-copyright-case which is still in the appellate court.

  • Licensing your images to third parties is a great way to earn an almost passive income. If you grant a license to another company with the terms Zillow demands, you dilute your ability to re-license images. Zillow also is in a position to have access to a large number of images for all of their projects at no cost, so the market is diluted even more. Some national/international franchises were trying to get their franchise office to require photographers to sign away their rights on images for the same reason. The company would no longer have to license/commission images for their own advertising where they usually spend thousands of dollars a year.

    Most ad agencies want to have fresh images for their campaigns. If you have granted somebody such as Zillow a free license and the image is/has used in conjunction with an advertising campaign, others may not want to use that image to avoid confusion.

    Not every image has great potential for re-licensing, but it can be very surprising on which ones do. Obviously, your best work of the nicest subjects will have the best chance, but a very plain image can be worth money too. Even if you aren’t contemplating licensing images beyond usage on listings right now, you may want to in the future. You may find yourself unable to work or the market may slow way down in your area and your inventory of images are an asset that you can then use to earn an income.

  • “If you grant a license to another company with the terms Zillow demands, you dilute your ability to re-license images.”

    No you do not. You’re free to re-license your images to your heart’s content.

  • As mentioned above, it depends on how much you reasonably expect your status as Zillow Certified will bolster your business. You’re granting them a license in the language of that contract…not giving over your copyright.

  • Ken Brown wrote: “…Most ad agencies want to have fresh images for their campaigns. If you have granted somebody such as Zillow a free license and the image is/has used in conjunction with an advertising campaign, others may not want to use that image to avoid confusion….”

    Oh, please. Can we remain grounded in reality? We’re talking about photos that have already by used, remember? By the client that hired the photographer to shoot a real estate listing? The photos are already “out there”, being used to advertise a house for sale.

  • Scott, I write MY opinions. You are free to write your own. If you just want to troll other peoples postings, there are plenty of other places for that. Are you implying that you don’t care if Zillow were using your work for free, forever?

    @ anonymous1, I wasn’t trying to imply that a photographer can’t relicense the images, just that an image that gets used a lot isn’t as attractive to some agencies so it can be harder to license those images for good money. From time to time I get asked about previous licensing from customers. I can report in good faith that images I submit to them for consideration have or have not been licensed to any other entity and the extent of any licensing agreements I have made. RE images are so short term and of interest in such a limited area when they are being used to advertise a home that they are not affected much by that usage. I don’t do Social Media, so I also haven’t granted any of them broad rights to my work.

  • @Loughton, You are correct that you aren’t turning over your Copyright, but you are handing over unlimited free use of those images for not much in return unless the certification is driving tons of business to you. About the only thing that brings in business for me is getting out and meeting people when it comes to RE/Arch work. My journalism work is usually being at the right place at the right time. My volume work is about getting out and networking/selling. I’ve only had limited returns on other sorts of advertising. If getting to be Zillow Certified has proved to be a boon for someone, I’d love to hear the details. It’s not likely that I’d assign an unlimited license in return for that, but things may change.

  • @Ken, absolutely…James will have to decide if the relationship with Zillow is worth giving unlimited use. Photos for real estate usually have a short shelf life once the listing is sold, but there is future value to builders, stagers, and architects. I just think that James could still license his images to them, even if he has granted unlimited use to Zillow; especially if they want higher resolution versions of the images for marketing purposes.

  • As Larry mentions you grant this kind of usage any time you post photos to social media such as Facebook and Instagram. I think such terms are prevalent among Web hosting companies as well. GoDaddy uses them. For the most part, I have not heard of any Web company actually sublicensing material to other parties beyond what is necessary for them to disseminate the content users post with their services, though the rights users grant them would certainly seem to make that possible, if they chose to do that. However, I have noticed that Zillow has been sneekily using listing photos in advertisements for other companies, for which they no doubt charge. Then, when you click on the link that is using your photo, it takes you to some other company’s website. There is also Zillow Digs, which displays listing photos in a way completely unrelated to marketing the listings, just for the purpose of attracting viewers in home decor and design and selling advertising based on that content.

  • I would look at two things: Will this bring me profitable work? and What use would I have for these photos other than this customer? The answer most likely would be Yes to the first and “No future use” to the second.. So, Yes. I’d sign it and get to work.

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