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Are You Sure You Understand Your Photo Licensing Agreement?

Published: 28/03/2018
By: larry

Alan in Seattle area asked:

Last year, I shot a $20 million dollar home. Last evening, an evening magazine show on Seattle’s King 5 (TV), ran a story about that house. They used 14 of my images, which I shot for a realtor when the house was going on the market. Though I was credited for the photos with a 20-second graphic, which I was never contacted for, nor gave permission to use. Do I have any recourse? Is it worth the effort?

I asked Alan if he had a signed photo licensing agreement and he said yes. It reads as follows:

All images produced for an Agent or Broker (Client) may be used by the Client for all marketing materials and campaigns associated with the property and for the Client’s self-promotion. The photos may also be used by the Client’s parent company for the sole purpose of marketing the specific property photographed. Ownership of the images remains with the photographer, and license is granted only to the Client and Client’s parent company, and not to any third party. Any usage of the images by a third party, including and not limited to, architects, builders, stagers, designers, sellers or buyers, is strictly prohibited unless approved in writing by the photographer.

Don't consider this a legal opinion but to me, the above license agreement clearly states that the client can use the photos to promote themselves any time, even well after the property has sold. Alan seemed to think that since the King 5 TV spot was well after the property sold, it was in violation. But there's no time limit specified for self-promotion.

What do you think?

7 comments on “Are You Sure You Understand Your Photo Licensing Agreement?”

  1. My answer would hinge on if this was a story about the house or about the agent. The first would be a violation the second would be allowed under the contract.

  2. This same question was posted on Face Book awhile back and had a lot of play. It is clear that the Agent used the "and for the Client’s self-promotion" clause to get some free face time advertising. It is also clear that the photog received 20 seconds of free time advertising.

    As Larry highlighted, the "Self-promotion" is key to why this photog should be thankful for the 20 second face time stop being greedy

  3. The photographer should "stop being greedy"? Really? That seems harsh. Protecting copywrite isn't just about getting licensing fees that are due, it is about making sure the entity that violated the copywrite is on warning and does not do it again. Imo, to not stand up for your rights weakens the strength of copywrite law for everyone.

    All that said, this t.v. spot does not seem to violate the agreement. Throughout the piece, they owner of the property and the host talk about the property being on the market, how the owner will be sad when it sells, etc. Clearly, when they shot the piece, the house was still on the market. So, when the realtor gave the photos over to the t.v. show, that will still within his/her rights as per their agreement with the photographer.

    If I were the photographer, I'd put this in the "an interesting thing happened to me" folder and move on.

  4. Not a legal expert, but it seems to me that the first sentence could be a little clearer and should really be pretty much the same as the one for the brokerage. That is, I don't think the first sentence makes it absolutely clear that the licensee can only use the photos for marketing the subject property for sale.

  5. I'm not a lawyer, I have no legal training, I have never even played a lawyer on TV. However, I did stay at a hotel and now feel qualified to give advise.

    The ad never states who is marketing the property, how to purchase it or who to contact. In addition, the state of Washington requires that all advertising of professional services and any marketing of a client’s property, without exception, must include the firm’s licensed name. The firm’s name must be included, in a clear and conspicuous manner.

    Because of the above, this is not a marketing tool for the property or client. Even it it was an attempt at advertising, the firm would be in violation of Washington state law dealing with real estate advertising.

    Thus, the licence as written does not cover this usage.

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