Let’s talk copyright… This topic has come up quite often over the years as a Real Estate Photographer.
So who owns the pictures? The photographer who took them or the person who hired them for the job? It is widely understood that those Professional wedding, family or school photos remain the property of the photographer and reproducing them or using them for purposes other than personal viewing is illegal. Well the same usually applies for Real Estate Photography. In fact, any photograph taken by a professional is considered copyright. And no, the image does not have to be marked as such or even watermarked.
When hiring a Photographer to produce photos for a real estate listing the contract, or terms and conditions usually state that the client is obtaining an assignment or license to use the images for marketing the specific property for sale. So what happens when another party, usually the seller, would like copies of the images from the Realtor? Technically it isn’t the Realtors property to share and they should obtain permission from the photographer before distributing the images. (I personally have encouraged using the photos as part of a closing gift, especially when the sellers have a long history or bond with the property.) The photographers aren’t being unreasonable in limiting the use. There is a very solid business reason behind how rights of use are decided.
Imagine you purchased a stock image to use in your business. For example a photograph of two people shaking hands. An assignment or license is given to you to use them image within the terms set out. You publish that image on your web-site to add interest to one of your topics. A friend contacts you asking for a copy of the image to use on their business flyers. Of course you would refer them to the site where you obtained the image for them to purchase.
Another example that I recently saw was a wedding photograph that a venue was using to advertise their reception hall. The photograph was given to the venue by the bride and groom without knowledge or permission from the photographer. The photographer, as the owner the photo, I’m sure would have been happy to provide the venue a license to use his work with the proper compensation and agreement.
I can’t imagine any photographer being unreasonable when it comes to their images living on beyond the sale of a home. In cases where the images will be used to for profit or marketing the photographer will discuss pricing options. Even where the image are for a personal gift, it’s never a bad idea (and technically it’s the legal one) to obtain permission before using or distributing images beyond the use they were released for. It will show your photographer you respect their work.
Resources – Canadian Copyright Act