All MLS photos are actually protected by copyright statutes; the person or entity that took the original photo is the copyright holder even if the photo has been altered. Using someone else’s photos without their express written permission may result in a copyright infringement. Moreover, infringement lawsuits that involve the sale of real estate may be filed against the infringer, the broker, and even the property owner. How can that happen?

The author of copyrighted information, or in this case photos, enjoys federal copyright protection of his/her photos and is the only person that can authorize the distribution, sale, modification, or use of their work. The agent, broker, and especially the property owner stand to profit from the sale of the property as a result of the photos that may be included in the MLS, flyers, print advertising or even internet advertising of the property. The best way to protect yourself is to use your own photos or obtain written permission from the owner of photos that you would like to use in your listings and advertising.

But what if this property has been listed before and my seller insists upon using one or more of the photos that are already in the MLS as a result of that earlier listing? You may certainly attempt to obtain permission from the previous REALTOR who listed the property . . . and if you are successful . . . great! If not, explain to your seller that both of you could end up on the wrong end of a copyright infringement lawsuit and offer to secure better photos elsewhere. Perhaps they have one or more in their own collection that really show off the house and property.

For a good source of copyright FAQs, Click Here.

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PS: The image above is not copyrighted!

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