What You Need to Know About MLS Photo Licensing

MLS Photo Licensing

Books and art are something that can be copyrighted, but we don’t often think about pictures in the same way. It’s just a picture of a house, right? For photographers, it is their way to make a living, and they intend to protect the intellectual property that they have created. The copyright of images can be problematic in the real estate industry and it is important to pay attention to the contracts you have with your photographers.

Basic standard contracts typically give you a limited-use license, meaning that the photos are only allowed to be used for a set amount of time. The license to the photos often expires once the listing goes off-market. Because of the scenarios that can lead to copyright infringement, it is strongly recommended to look closely at the contract you have with a photographer and obtain the broadest license available. 

A few scenarios to consider when arranging a licensing agreement include:    

  • The ability to utilize and recycle photographs if a listing is put back on the market after selling 
  • Permission to post the photographs on your website, or social media indefinitely
  • The allowance of other agents to take over a listing without acquiring an additional license

It may involve extra costs, but it will be beneficial to negotiate the assignment of rights to attain ownership of the photographs. The contract will then clearly state that you own the photographs and the copyright of the photos.  

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There is a whole cottage industry of followers who are attacking real estate photographs. This is local and expanding nationwide, and is a big threat to the real estate industry. Just be aware these are big settlements. Copyright laws are strict and brokerages will end up settling.    

There are plenty of photographers that are trying to get your business. Ask what type of licensing they are willing to negotiate. Remember, if you buy photographs and give them to a realtor, the rights may not be available after the sale. If you want those rights, find a photographer that will give you a broad licensing agreement, or assign the rights to you. Because of what’s at stake, don’t settle for less and save yourself a legal hassle down the road. 

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