Are Real Estate Photos Copyrighted?

Michael • Updated February 5, 2023 • 7 min read

Are real estate photos copyrighted

If you’re involved in the real estate industry, you’ve probably noticed that good photography is an essential part of marketing a property. But have you ever stopped to think about who owns the copyright to those photos?

Both real estate agents and photographers need to know about copyright because it can have important legal and financial effects. Here’s what you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding real estate photo copyright is crucial for real estate agents and photographers.
  • There are several types of copyright infringement that can occur in real estate photography.
  • Real estate photographers can take steps to protect their work, including registering with the US Copyright Office and using watermarks.
  • Real estate photographers should follow best practices for protecting and monetizing their work, including licensing their photos and staying informed about copyright law.


1. What is the Real Estate Photos Copyright?

Copyright laws protect the intellectual property rights of photographers and artists. When it comes to real estate photography, the photographer who took the photo owns the copyright. In other words, they are the only ones who can copy, distribute, show, or get a license for the photo.

This means that if someone wants to use the photo, they need permission from the photographer or to pay for the rights to use it.

As the use of real estate photos has become increasingly common, it’s important for both real estate agents and photographers to understand the laws surrounding copyright.

This includes what it means to break someone’s copyright, how to keep people from stealing your photos, and the best way to use real estate photos.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide to real estate photo copyright. It will cover the basics of copyright law, types of copyright infringement in real estate photography, and strategies for protecting your photos.

We will also look at the role of real estate agents in copyright compliance, best practices for real estate photographers, and tips for monetizing your work.

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2. Understanding Copyright in Real Estate Photography

Copyright is important for both real estate agents and photographers to understand because using photos that are protected by copyright without permission can lead to serious legal problems.

Types of Copyright Infringement in Real Estate Photography

Copyright infringement can take many forms, such as copying a photo without permission, changing a photo without permission, or using a photo in a way that goes beyond what was agreed to in a license agreement. It’s important to be aware of these types of infringements so you can take steps to protect your photos.

Real Estate Photos and Fair Use Doctrine

The “fair use” doctrine is a part of U.S. copyright law that lets people use copyrighted material in limited ways without getting permission from the owner of the copyright. However, the fair use doctrine is subjective and can be difficult to interpret.

In general, it may be fair to use a photo for news, criticism, or commentary, but it is less likely to be fair to use a photo for business purposes.
Photographer’s Rights

As the owner of the copyright, the photographer has the right to control how their photos are used. They can choose to license their photos for a fee, or they can allow others to use their photos for free.

Before using someone else’s photos, it’s important to respect their rights and get their permission.

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3. Who Owns the Copyright to Real Estate Photos?

As with any photograph, the copyright to real estate photos belongs to the person who took the photo – in other words, the photographer. This means that the photographer has the exclusive right to control how the photos are used and to be compensated for their use.

But the copyright can also depend on the terms of the contract between the photographer and the client.

For example, if the photographer is hired to take photos for a real estate agent or broker, the client may expect to have full ownership of the photos.

In this case, it’s important to have a clear and written agreement in place that outlines the terms of copyright ownership.

In addition, it’s important to consider model releases for photos that include people on the property.

If a model release hasn’t been signed, the person in the photo might be able to say they don’t want the photo to be used or ask to be pa

4. Copyright Protection for Real Estate Photos

Registering Real Estate Photos with the US Copyright Office

By registering your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can get more legal protection in case someone steals your work. By registering your photos, you can make it clear who owns them and show that you are the only person who can use them.

Using Watermarks on Real Estate Photos

Watermarks are a simple and effective way to protect your photos from infringement. By adding a watermark to your photos, you can make it clear that the photos are your property and that they should not be used without your permission.

Sending Cease and Desist Letters

If someone is using your photos without your permission, you can send a cease-and-desist letter. This is a formal request to stop using the photos and take them down from any websites or other publications. If the person does not comply, you may need to take legal action.

5. Taking Legal Action Against Copyright Infringement

Taking legal action against copyright infringement can be a long and costly process, but it may be necessary to protect your rights as a photographer or real estate agent.

If you think someone has stolen your real estate photos, the first thing you should do is send a “cease and desist” letter that explains your rights and asks that the theft stop right away.

If the infringement keeps happening, you may need to think about going to court, which could mean filing a lawsuit in federal court.

Before doing so, you should think about how much it will cost, how long it will take, and what resources you will need.

You may also want to seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in copyright law. In the case of real estate photos, the owner of the copyright may be able to get money, including any money the person who broke the law made by using the photos.

The owner of the copyright may also be able to get an injunction, which would force the person who is using the photos without permission to stop.

It is important to note that taking legal action should always be a last resort and that it is often better to resolve disputes through negotiation or mediation.

However, if your rights have been violated and you believe that taking legal action is necessary, it is important to understand the process and what you can expect.

6. Tips for Protecting Real Estate Photos Copyright

As a real estate photographer, it is important to take steps to protect your photos from copyright infringement. Here are some tips to help you do so:

  • Register your photos with the US Copyright Office
    Registering your real estate photos with the US Copyright Office provides you with added protection and makes it easier to take legal action if necessary.
  • Use watermarks
    Watermarking your real estate photos can help deter others from using your photos without your permission.
  • Properly license your photos
    If you are licensing your real estate photos to others, make sure to use a written agreement that clearly outlines the terms of the license.
  • Stay up-to-date on copyright laws
    The law surrounding real estate photo copyright is constantly evolving, so it is important to stay informed and seek legal advice when necessary.

7. Properly Licensing Real Estate Photos

To protect your rights as a photographer, it’s important to get the right licenses for your real estate photos.

When licensing your photos to others, it is important to use a written agreement that clearly outlines the terms of the license.
Some common types of licenses for real estate photos include:

  • Royalty-free license
    This type of license allows the buyer to use the photos in an unlimited number of ways, for an unlimited period of time, for a one-time fee.
  • Rights-managed license
    This type of license restricts the use of the photos and may include restrictions such as the type of use, the geographic location, and the length of time the photos may be used.
  • Exclusive license
    This type of license grants the buyer exclusive rights to use the photos for a specified period of time.

When licensing your real estate photos, it is important to consider the specific needs of the buyer and to tailor the license accordingly.

You should also make sure that the license agreement is clear and easy to understand, and that it provides you with adequate protection.

8. How to Obtain Permission to Use Real Estate Photos

If you’re a real estate agent or broker and you want to use a photo that you didn’t take yourself, it’s important to seek permission from the copyright owner.

Most of the time, this means getting in touch with the photographer and talking about getting a license or permission to use the photo.

The terms of the license or permission will depend on the specific agreement between the parties, and it’s important to have a written agreement in place to avoid any misunderstandings.

9. Real Estate Agents and Brokers in Copyright Management

As a real estate agent or broker, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you have the necessary permissions to use any photos that you didn’t take yourself.

This includes both photos of the property and any photos that include people on the property. If you don’t get the right permissions, you could get in trouble with the law, so it’s important to be careful about copyright issues.

10. How to Monetize Real Estate Photos

Real estate photos can be a valuable source of income for photographers. Here are some ways to monetize your real estate photos:

  • Sell the photos outright
    You can sell your real estate photos to real estate agents, developers, or other clients who need high-quality images of properties.
  • License the photos
    As mentioned earlier, you can license your real estate photos to others for a fee.
  • Stock photography
    You can submit your real estate photos to stock photography websites, where buyers can purchase the rights to use them for their own purposes.
  • Real estate listing sites
    Some real estate listing sites allow photographers to sell their real estate photos directly to home buyers and sellers.

If you want to make money off of your real estate photos, you need to make sure they are properly licensed and that you understand the terms of the license agreement.

This will help make sure you get paid fairly for your work and protect your rights as a photographer.

Frequently Asked Question

What are the MLS photo rules?

The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) has specific rules when it comes to the photos that can be used to list a property. These rules are different depending on where you live, but they usually have rules about photo size, resolution, and the number of photos that can be used per listing.

It’s important to check with your local MLS for the specific rules in your area.

Are there any laws in real estate photography?

Yeah, there are a few laws to be aware of when it comes to real estate photography. For example, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to treat people differently based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, family status, or disability when selling or renting housing.

This means that photographers must be careful to avoid any images that could be seen as discriminatory. Additionally, there are laws surrounding the use of drones for real estate photography, so it’s important to check with your local authorities before using one.

Can a real estate agent use old photos to sell a house?

It’s not recommended to use old photos to sell a house, as they can be misleading to potential buyers and can create false expectations about the property.

It’s always best to use current, accurate photos to give potential buyers a clear idea of what the property looks like.

How do I know if a real estate photo is copyrighted?

If you’re not the photographer and you haven’t obtained permission to use a photo, it’s copyrighted. So, the best practice is to get permission to use the photo or take your own.

You can also check the metadata of an image or the photographer’s website or social media account to see if they have explicitly stated that the photo is copyrighted.


Understanding copyright is important for anyone involved in the real estate industry, whether you’re a photographer, a real estate agent, or a broker.

By obtaining the necessary permissions or licenses to use photos that you didn’t take yourself, you can avoid potential legal problems and protect your own work.

So next time you’re using photos to market a property, make sure you understand who owns the copyright and how to obtain permission to use the photos.

Further readings:
5 Things Photographers Can Do to Protect Their Images Online
How to find images for your project without stealing
Law and Etiquette for Using Photos and Images Found Online

What do you think, are Real Estate Photos Copyrighted? Let us know in the comments.

By Furoore team member Michael
Furoore Team is here to assist you in capturing the most significant moments in your life. To create exciting photographs, discover photography guides, find unique photo ideas, and limitless image inspiration.


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