Actually, we know that talking about copyright and licensing is not a fun subject. We also recognize that for our clients (you) this is a sensitive and at times contentious subject. Often we get questions about who owns the photos to a listing. For all our of real estate photography, the answer is that we (as the photographer) own the rights to all photos and what we sell our clients is a usage license. In the past, our clients were only able to use the images for the duration of the listing. From our clients perspective they would like to “own” the photos so they can use the photos to market themselves say on their website or on printed marketing material even after the home is sold. For that reason we’ve recently updated our licensing terms (see table below). Let’s first, however, define the difference between ownership (copyright) and usage rights (licensing).
Copyright is defined by the government as: “…, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship…”. The types of works that are protected include: “Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works”. Pictorial includes digital photos. As such, when we (The Property Snappers) take photos we are creating an original work of authorship which is automatically protected by copyright law. So when we are asked to pass ownership of a photo that means passing along all the rights granted by copyright law. This will include allowing the new owner to resell, reproduce, transfer, license and create new works based on the photo. As such, we never reassign ownership of our photos. If we did it would mean we couldn’t use it on our website, in our marketing material, resell it to a builder or designer. As a result, that would limit income opportunities and usage for us.
What I believe Realtors really want and need is better licensing terms. Licensing is the mechanism by which we set the time period, allowable uses and identify who can use the photo. As mentioned earlier, we currently have a limited licensing use that allows us to sell photos at a reasonable cost. However, we are committed to partnering and helping our clients succeed because when you succeed, we succeed. Therefore, we are updating our licensing terms to now allow a Realtor to use the photos to market themselves, even after a property has sold. Below is a table that compares our old licensing terms with our new licensing terms. We hope that this helps you grow as a Realtor.