Photo Copyright in the Real Estate World – What Do I Need to Know? Photo Copyright in the Real Estate World

Photo Copyright in the Real Estate World – What Do I Need to Know?

Feb 26 2021

In this article, you will find what you need to know about photo copyright in the real estate world and learn how to protect both yourself and your business.

What You Need to Know about Photo Copyright in the Real Estate World

Let us say you want to use an amazing photo of a beach to promote one of the properties you are trying to sell. You realize the title company with which you often work has the perfect photo on its website and think, “They will not mind if I use it,” so you use it. While this seems innocent, you soon learn the actual owners of the photo are coming after you claiming copyright infringement.  

The problem with photo copyright in the real estate world is that, usually, a single company owns every image you can find online, and a much bigger problem is the misconception that a photo that one can easily obtain online can be used by anyone who downloads it – this is, of course, not true. Finding something on the internet does not mean having permission to use it. This issue has become so widespread that the companies who own the images you find online are now actively enforcing their rights, demanding that anyone who uses their copyrighted material illegally for marketing purposes be legally punished.

A large number of Florida realtors have received several demand letters from image licensing companies citing their illegal use of copyrighted photos on their websites, and the number grows every day. However, violations are often a mistake and realtors did not know they were doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, copyright law is merciless, and ignorance is no excuse. Violating the law can result in big statutory and civil penalties.

Another common defense many copyright infringers use is claiming they did not make their website themselves. However, claiming that a third party developed your site and that they are the ones who made the choice to use the copyrighted photos without permission will not work. Although the person or company who developed your website may share culpability, if you own the site, you are liable for the copyright infringement.

Protection Tips for Real Estate Professionals

The best way to stay out of legal trouble is to make you are not using someone’s copyrighted material. To do this, the first thing you need to do is check your website and identify all the images on it. Then, answer these two questions: 

1.) Where did the images come from? 

2.) Are you sure you have permission to use the images?

If you cannot answer both questions confidently, remove the images immediately and do not put them back up until you receive confirmation that you have permission to use them.

If, however, removing the copyrighted images before the owner finds out you are using them without their permission is not an option and you have already received a demand letter from the copyright owner, whatever you do, do not ignore it – that is a big mistake. Speak with an attorney to see what your options are. It may be possible to negotiate with the copyright owner; however, you have to respond to the letter. Simply removing the images and acting as if nothing ever happened is not the way to deal with a demand letter.

The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to either take your own pictures or hire a professional to do it for you. However, if you do not have the time or the money to do this and choose to use images from the internet, make sure you get permission to do so by paying the licensing fees. If you hire a web developer to create your site, make sure your service agreement contains a provision that indemnifies you in the event the developer uses copyrighted material without permission.

Do you have any questions about photo copyright in the real estate world? We have answers. Call Marina Title at (305) 901-5628 or email us at

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