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Your Photos Were Used for a Relisting without Your Permission! Now What?

Published: 20/05/2020

Alan, from Seattle, WA writes:

"I got an email from a homeowner who was asking me to send him the photos I took of the home for the agent who sold the house to him last year. He's relisting the house and wanted to use my images. I told him it would be $200 for licensing the images to use for the new listing. He argued and then said he'd get other photos. Today, they listed the home on the MLS using my images. How would you handle something like this? This is a first for me"

Hi Alan, thanks for writing in. Over the past several months, PFRE has posted a number of articles on copyright infringement and how to protect yourself when others take advantage of your work. I'm sure you will recall articles from both Mike Boatman (here, here, and here) and Kerry Bern (here and here).

I happened to be chatting with Kerry recently and ran this situation by him. He kindly offered to pull-together a brief write-up describing how he'd handle this. Here is what Kerry had to say:

Alan, I am sure that this has happened to a great many people in our community. It certainly has happened to me a few times. What I have done is send a friendly email to the new listing agent. Ideally, not only do I want to relicense the photos to them, I would also like to turn them into a client. This is the type of email that I typically send as a first interaction with the person who's used my photos without my permission:

"Hi ________,

My name is __________ and I am a photographer based here in the __________ area. I recently noticed that you are using the photos I created last year of the property at [address of the home], which is a new listing of yours.

Using any photos that I create requires purchasing a license from me to do so. I would be more than happy to grant you a license for a fee and would like to discuss with you the possibility of working with you on future listings.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,"

Alan, hopefully, the agent will pay you for using your photos and if so, you have a new client. More often than not, I've received an apology and the photos taken down. I think it's more helpful to start an interaction from a place of civility rather than immediately jumping to a confrontational stance. If you do not get a response from the agent, then I suggest the next step is to contact their broker. If that still does not get you results, then report the agent to the local real estate association. For any further action, I suggest you contact a lawyer that specializes in intellectual property rights, to discuss your options. I hope this helps!

.................................................................................................................................................................................................................

For those of you who don't know Kerry Bern, he is a long-time contributor to PFRE, including being a juror in our monthly photography contests, as well as being a coach on PFRE's coaching roster. Kerry has a successful history of addressing situations where his photos have been infringed and has assisted numerous photographers with registering their images to fully protect their intellectual property rights. Thanks for your input on this post, Kerry!

Brandon Cooper

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