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Copyright Law vs Real Estate Photography

Published: 23/04/2021

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For those of you that have followed my articles about copyright registration or read my article where I posted the public papers from my federal copyright litigation against my area MLS, PAAR the clock is ticking.

I’m going to be brief because, a very detailed press release has been posted here with supporting documents and factual proof.

I strongly encourage you to stop reading now! Go to the link and read the full story. But for those of you that want the short version here you go.

Copyright Law vs. Real Estate PR Release

In my opinion, as a layperson not an attorney, regardless of industry:

  • It is illegal to transfer usage rights without the legal authority to do so.
  • It is illegal to falsify ownership by posting false accreditations to ownership for IP which you do not own.
  • It is illegal to distribute, display, copy and or make derivative works of IP (images) if you do not have the authority granted to you by the owner of the IP. Especially if doing these acts represents a financial gain for the infringer.

This is US Federal Law paraphrased into layman’s terms by a layperson, not an attorney.

Copyright claim written on paper with typewriter

George Gutenberg recently filed formal copyright litigation against Move Inc. (

GEORGE GUTENBERG, Plaintiff, v. MOVE, INC., Defendant.


Demand for Jury Trial

Case 2:21-cv-02382 Document 1 Filed 03/17/21

A complete copy of the full complaint is available at the link above. Also available at the link above is a complete copy of the RIN Agreement and Mike Boatman’s first amended complaint. RIN stands for Realtor Information Network. A complete history of how the RIN agreement came about is provided at the link above.

If you’re a photographer that believes that once you photograph a property and delivered your images to the client, that they can do whatever they want with them, so be it. It’s your property, it’s your prerogative. In my opinion, it’s a bit shortsighted and you’re cheating yourself, but it’s your property.

If you’re a photographer that rights manages images with a contract governing usage for your clients, but you turn a blind eye to the ongoing usage beyond the terms of your contract, that’s very damaging.

You’re doing more harm than the photographer above. You are establishing what’s referred to as an implied license and an industry standard for usual and customary which affects all photographers in that industry. This is a big problem and you really need to think twice before doing this.

If you’re a photographer that rights manages images with the contract governing usage for your clients and you just learned about the ongoing usage from one of my articles, the clock is ticking. There’s a three-year statute of limitations to file formal litigation for copyright infringements starting from the discovery of the infringement.

I’ve probably buried the lead but summarizing here. If a US federal judge rules that the RIN agreement does not have the authority to grant in accordance with paragraph four of the agreement virtual perpetual unlimited usage rights to aggregators, then the foundation of the real estate business model will be ruled illegal and forced to change.

What is That Change Going to Look Like?

That’s the big question. Will it be a continuation of what we witnessed with George Gutenberg being blacklisted as a photographer and forcing them out of business because he said no to stealing his property?

Force a copyright ownership transfer or don’t work as is being enacted by some California MLSs?

I, for one, do not accept being bullied especially when the bully is breaking the law to do it.

I know of two other photographers whose complaints are being drafted even as we speak today and several others that are in line to follow behind them all following George Gutenberg’s example. And potentially one photographer that might follow my example.

The goal is to force a conversation seeking compromise that respects photographers, our rights and recognizes the contribution that we make to the financial benefit of the real estate industry.

If you don’t make your voices heard and establish a seat at the table to help find a compromise then you probably need to say goodbye to ownership of your copyrights if you want to work in the real estate industry.

I guess the true question comes down to, do real estate photographers care?

Mike Boatman