Zillow Sued for $81 Million by Real Estate Photographer

September 19th, 2018

Lani Rosales over at wrote an interesting article describing the lawsuit that one of our real estate photographer community members (George Gutenberg – Jan 2014 PFRE photographer of the month) has filed against Zillow. For full details, see Lani’s description of the lawsuit.

This is not the first such lawsuit. We reported on VHT’s similar suit last year.

As Lani points out, this is a convoluted subject and there are many interests involved. It shouldn’t require multi-million dollar lawsuits to all parties involved with real estate photos to obey copyright law. In the past, there hasn’t been a strong voice for real estate photographers but recently, there has been a movement to create an association of real estate photographers. Hopefully, this will ultimately solve this problem. In the meantime, kudos to George for standing up for his (and our) rights!

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14 Responses to “Zillow Sued for $81 Million by Real Estate Photographer”

  • You go George!
    Best of luck. It seems you have carefully laid out classic infringement case.

  • Fight the good fight George!

  • This is great! I hope he can make some noise. I have had tons of photos stolen and used from one listing to another agent. Zillow keeps everything so if a new agent comes along they can get your photos you took previously. I hope he wins!


  • There are a few associations.

    Association of Independent Architectural Photographers AIAP …

    International Association of …

    Professional Photographers of America: Welcome to PPA

  • @Dave – The problem is that the associations you refer to, have never or are not addressing the specific problems of real estate photographers as demonstrated by George’s lawsuit against Zillow and the lawsuit by VHT that is in appeal whereas the AREP (association of real estate photographers) will focus specifically on the problems involved in the two Zillow suits.

  • How can we help…by joining the Association of Real Estate Photographers? Is there such an association? The post says there is a “movement”.

  • The Association of Real Estate Photographers is still in the process of being created that’s why I called it “a movement”. I’ll do a post on it when it is possible to join it.

  • Wow, I’ve gotten a bunch of messages from fellow photographers thanking me for standing up. Thank you all for the kind wishes.

    I do want to clarify something here. While the “Zillow Sued for $81 Million by Real Estate Photographer” makes for a good headline for a reporter, the case in question does not specify any amount. I think that perhaps the writer simply multiplied the number of infringements with the maximum damages amount available under the statute which is $150,000 per infringement.

    I have to say that you do not take an action like this lightly, there is significant time, expense, and stress involved. Having said all that, I believe it is important to protect what is legally ours. If we do not, do we not essentially say that it’s okay for anybody to steal what is ours? Unless we call for the enforcement of copyright law, are we not risking loosing that protection all together?

    If you haven’t read Zillow’s TOS, take a look! ( It’s amusing to read how they are quite protective of their own copyright, yet could not care less about ours. They even demand that if you cite, or refer to anything on their websites, you must provide attribution, yet they could not care less about ours.

    It’s just time to stand up.

  • It will be interesting to see how this comes out if it isn’t settled out of court with NDA’s. Zillow knows better so there is a good chance that the infringements can be classed as “willful”, but a judge would have to really be persuaded to assess the full $150K/image as the article uses to bulk up the headline.

    Zillow might have thought they would be safe since most photographers don’t register their images and even fewer will file a lawsuit. Those that do raise a fuss are cheaper to pay off then they would have paid in the first place had they properly licensed all of the images that they use. George could be in for a healthy payment which should signal to other photographers that their images are worth something and registering Copyrights is a good thing.

  • @Larry hopefully the new Real Estate Photographers Association will have a reasonable subscription fee. PPA is $288.00 yearly. My budget can afford $50 a year.

  • What about realtor.Com and trulia? Do they practice the same copyright infringements?

  • @larrry I did not know you have a Real Estate Photography Directory that I just joined. Christina Strong let me know and let our group know about this as well. Guess I should read more or just open my eyes. PFRE could be the ASSOCIATION you are talking about.

  • @Dave – No, the PFRE Directory has nothing to do with an association. The PFRE blog has had that directory for over 10 years.

  • Thank you, George. We will stand up with you!

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