PFRE is the original online resource for real estate and interior photographers. Since 2006, it has been a community hub where like-minded professionals from around the world gather to share information with a common goal of improving their work and advancing their business. With thousands of articles, covering hundreds of topics, PFRE offers the most robust collection of educational material in our field. The history of real estate photography has been documented within these pages.
All Articles


The Render Flames tool in Photoshop is a very powerful and dynamic tool that lets you add fire in just a few steps where there otherwise wasn't one in your photo. In this video, I demonstrate step by step how you can have Photoshop render a fire into a ...



The PFRE Community Forum is an online resource for discussing the art and business of Real Estate and Interior Photography.
Join The Discussion


View Now


For over a decade, photographers from around the world have participated in PFRE’s monthly photography contests, culminating in the year-end crowning of PFRE’s Photographer of the Year. With a new theme each month and commentary offered by some of the finest real estate & interior photographers anywhere, these contests offer a fun, competitive environment with rich learning opportunities. 

Contest Rules


View / Submit


View Archive


PFRE’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas provides real estate and interior photographers from around the world an opportunity to meet on an annual basis, to learn, share best practices and make connections. Many of the leading names in our field are selected to speak on topics aimed at improving our craft and advancing our business. It’s a comfortable, relaxed environment that is fun, easy to get to, and affordable.


PFRE Conference 2020

Registration not open yet
App Store

Latest News

PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 Announcement: Presenter Line Up Part 1 of 2

We're a few short months away from the PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 an ...

Reader Poll: Which Topics Should Be Covered at the 2020 PFRE Virtual Conference?

Planning is well underway for the 2020 PFRE Virtual Conference and we' ...

PFRE Conference 2020 Announcement

As many of you know, last year we hosted the first-ever PFRE Conferenc ...



The PFRE podcast is focused on having meaningful conversations with world-class photographers, business professionals and industry leaders, with the goal to inform and inspire.
All Podcasts

Coming Soon...



PFRE prides itself on the depth and breadth of the information and professional development resources it makes available to our community. Our goal is to help real estate and interior photographers be successful while bringing the community together and elevating the industry as a whole.


Coming Soon...

Who Owns the Copyright for Real Estate Images?

Published: 07/08/2018
By: larry

Jack in Florida says:

I'm starting to get confused about who actually owns copyright privileges to the images that are posted on the MLS. Our local area Real Estate Association seems to think that they do once they are on MLS. They even put their Association logo on the images posted to MLS. Do real estate photographers lose their copyright privileges once they're put on MLS and the internet?

Yes, I can see how you are confused. There is a lot of craziness out there about copyright. We have followed this problem here on the PFRE blog for many years and you'll find many posts and discussions on this subject. Here is a short summary of some of the answers to your question:

  1. Unless the photographer has signed some agreement otherwise (i.e., a work for hire agreement, etc.) whoever pushes the camera shutter button owns the rights (copyright) to the resulting photo.
  2. Copyright cannot be transferred without the photographer (copyright owner) signing a document authorizing the transfer of copyright.
  3. Some MLSs (not all) claim copyright and put a copyright notice on images uploaded to the MLS. This doesn't stand up legally unless the photographer signs some agreement.
  4. Most real estate agents are confused about copyright law so it is very important for photographers to explain this and their photo licensing rules to clients.

Over the past several years, we have been lucky enough to have attorney Joel Rothman as a PFRE reader. Joel is involved in litigating MLS copyright issues. Joel has helped us sort out all the copyright craziness from the perspective of photographers. This is a post from about 4 years ago that summarizes some of Joel's advice.

3 comments on “Who Owns the Copyright for Real Estate Images?”

  1. Not certain where Jack is in Florida or which local Association, but having acquired many of the regionals throughout Central Florida, MFRMLS is one of the largest. And yes, they do put their watermark on each photo submitted. Historically, this had nothing to do with them acquiring some copyright, rather, to address (and virtually eliminate) a problem of other Realtors snagging published photographs and using on subsequent listings of the property and other marketing. In disputes, they know if the offending photo originated from their (copyrighted - discussed later) material. Plus, the most common mis-useage, using by an agent later listing the same property, would have 2 watermarks on it.

    One of the nice things about MFRMLS is that they have their Rules and Regulation on their website in a keyword searchable format. Although I did prefer the earlier version which was .pdf and using the 'find' 'find next' command to this new HTML based format as I don't know if it is as accurate. Last week I searched for the word "video" and received zero hits within Rules and Regulations - just non-related news articles. Today I actually ran across the word "video" while researching "copyright."

    After reading, it is apparent that there is no "power grab" of photographers copyright. While there is reference to photographers copyright in Article 4.5, it is actually quite favorable and a model for other MLS. Article 14 specifically addresses copyright, including 14.2 explicitly dedicated to Copyright. And finally, Article 20 and how they are limited in the usage of the compiled data.

    Article 4.5 (applicable text) "All content including remarks, virtual tour photos and images must be owned, purchased or licensed by the listing broker/agent, from the content owner."

    Article 14 - The title is "Ownership of the MFRMLS Compilations and Copyrights" and the key word is "compilations". Essentially, all data submitted and in their database can be compiled into various searches and reports. They own the copyright to those compiled searches and reports, and place limits on the usage, including access and standards on the number of reports that can be printed/distributed by members. Article 14.1 does have the provision members with the copyright ownership or licensure grants authority for the usage in the database that generates the marketing searches and reports. Below, notice 1)no copyright grab but granting authority to use, and 2) the only thing copyrighted is their compilation, which, arguable, is appropriate as they assert their copyright claim to their compiled reports.
    "By submitting any property listing to MLS, the Participant represents that:
    They have been authorized to grant and also thereby grant authority for MLS to include the property listing content in its copyrighted MLS compilation and also in any statistical report or “comparable”.
    They have the authorization to grant and do grant the MLS the authority to include the property listing (data) in approved VOW and IDX displays for advertising on other Participant’s IDX and/or VOW compliant websites. (Revised 6/11)" "Note: Listing content includes, but is not limited to, photographs, images, graphics, audio and video recordings, virtual tours, drawings, descriptions, remarks, narratives, pricing information, and other details or information related to listed property."

  2. @Larry Gray, I think that many people don't know about the compilation Copyright and don't realize that a publication isn't claiming the photos, but just the document as a whole. I can't reproduce a magazine article without permission even though my photos and text are included on the page. The layout belongs to the publisher. It's one more level deeper into how ownership of creative works is figured. Music is even more complicated the way it's carved up.

    You might want to search for "media" or "content" rather than "video". They may have tried to make the regs as broad as possible since there are more things like 3D and VR to contend with now.

  3. I must have lady luck behind me as far as ownership. I've had vacation rental companies and RE agents use my images more than once and each time, as far as I know, they have contacted me and paid what I asked for the reuse of the images. I don't know whether it's an honor system here or that they're simply afraid of getting fined
    or sued over stolen images. As far as I know, as mentioned above, the photographer has the copyright of any image they can prove is theirs, unless there is a signed document otherwise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *