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How to Help Ensure You Get Credit When Agents Use Your Photos in Large Publications

Published: 23/04/2018
By: larry

Cameron in Southern California said:

I just found out that Realtor.com ran a feature story on their website about a property I photographed. They credited themselves on all the images. The listing agent contacted me when he saw the article reproduced in its entirety on the website of the Seattle Post Intelligencer. A Google search shows the same article reproduced on the websites of the New Haven Register website and the San Francisco Chronicle.

While the publication of the photos on all these sites is well within the usage license agreement I have with the listing agent (because they are licensed to use the photos for marketing the property while it's on the market), it is a good thing I have a stipulation in my T&C that all editorial use of my images must have a proper photo credit. That’s the “payment” I expect from those publications in return for the benefit they gain from using my images; gain that is apart from the benefit my client gains from the publicity for the listing. Because of my T&C, the listing agent followed up and got Realtor.com to correct the error in photo credit.

In other markets, a photographer’s insistence on photo credit may not benefit his/her business. Here in Los Angeles, people find me because they read photo credits on Curbed, LA Times, Dwell, CA Home and Design, WSJ (although that’s a sticky issue now since they are trying to grab rights to photos they publish), and even Instagram. So I try my best to stay on top of wherever my images appear. It’s part of my marketing.

This seems like a great policy for those who shoot upper-end properties that are likely to be promoted in large publications.

3 comments on “How to Help Ensure You Get Credit When Agents Use Your Photos in Large Publications”

  1. I recently had my photos in a local magazine and had been asked to do a couple shots by the agent especially for this. It was four luxury properties she had listed, all listings I had shot for her. But she told me what she wanted to do with them when she asked for the reshoots, so I immediately said I wanted credit and the proofs from the magazine to show the credit.

    I wouldn't expect many (if any at all) calls to come from credit, but I'll be damned if my photos aren't credited to me when they go in a magazine.

  2. I keep copies of everything of mine that goes to print and I certainly want a photo credit. I've never had somebody track me down after seeing my name, but it adds more credibility when I show my portfolio and the images have my name on them.

    I can live with agents wanting me to be their secret weapon in the local market, but I want that credit if the images are used in a magazine.

    Did the syndicated use have the property presented as "for sale"? I'm fine with agents using every avenue they can to sell a home, but once the usage is changes to advertising of something other than the home or agent or editorial use, that's a different license that I don't confer to the agent as standard.

  3. I've found Realtor.com to be particularly problematic in this area. Not only have they run stories utilizing my images without consulting anyone and without proper credit; they also have numerous "syndication partners" who republish some or all of their content via a content-sharing agreement, potentially causing downstream misuse of the images. I contacted the author, who took a rather indignant stance as to why I had a problem with all this (never mind the fact that her name was credited to every instance of publication of the article). Even after they corrected their own infringement of my work, I am now faced with the task of chasing down everyone to whom their article was syndicated, which is next to impossible.

    My suggestion (not to be construed as legal advice) would be to make your expectations clear to your clients, in writing, regarding what to do if they are approached by a publication requesting use of your work, and any requirements for same that are to be considered a material element of the underlying agreement, such as a proper photo credit and/or link back to your website. Unfortunately, my personal opinion is that Realtor.com is unlikely to waver in their current process of using whatever content they find without asking, until it begins to hurt their wallet. Yet another example of how timely registration of your work with the USCO will give you more influence in resolving these concerns.

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