The last time we discussed this subject Scott Hargis made the excellent point that we all have many examples like music, software, e-books and movies that are licensed in a similar way to photos (for a limited use and relicensed to many people). Scott suggests that you explain to agents that photos work like music on their iPod. They usually get that.
Here is an actual example of how bad things can get if your client doesn't understand your photo licensing up front. I've left out all the names etc, because that's not important. This happened in a large metro area in the US. But trust me it can happen anywhere:
A beginning real estate photographer shot a property for a stager in order to get build a business relationship with the stager and to build his portfolio. He also let the listing agent use the photos for the listing. The listing agent was on site during the shoot. There was no discussion with either the stager or the listing agent about photo licensing (who owned the photos and who could do what with the photos) the stager nor the listing paid anything for the photos.
Sometime after the property was sold it went on the market again, listed by a different agent. That new listing agent contacted the photographer and asked to use the photos from the first listing. The photographer agreed to let the new listing agent use the photos and charged him $100.
When the first listing agent saw the photos being used for a second listing he went ballistic claiming that he owned the copyright to the photos and was going to take various legal actions. Further, he rallied the support of the other agents in his office, the broker and company all the way to the vice president convincing them all that no one in the company should deal with this photographer anymore because he has behaved unethically.
At this point you are probably like I was, laughing and shaking your head exclaiming that it's the first listing agent that is out of line and behaving unethically, not the photographer! To me the biggest villain in this story is the broker in charge of the office where the first listing agent is licensed! The brokers job is to help to educate the agents in their office rather than participating in this kind of foolishness. The fact that the broker doesn't even understand photo licensing in general shows how wide spread the lack of understanding of this subject is.
To summarize general real estate photo licensing conventions for those just getting in the business:
But don't assume that any given agent knows anything about the above three items. Take the time to put your licensing terms in black and white and explain those terms to your clients before you shoot for them because there's a good chance the client doesn't understand, or doesn't want to understand.