Real Estate Professionals Need to Minimize the Risk of Getting Sued for Copyright Infringement

Are you a real estate professional? If so, you need to be careful about any photograph or other image you use in the course of your business.

Fortunately, real estate professionals are increasingly aware of the risk of getting sued over the unauthorized use of photographs copied from someone else’s website. The 2017 federal jury finding against Zillow Group Inc. to the tune of $8.3 million for copyright infringement probably helped a bit.

Most business people now realize it is foolish to assume that images may be copied and used at no charge.  It is a good risk management practice to refrain from using such images unless you get a written license agreement with the copyright owner spelling out exactly when, where and how you may use the images. If you have someone else manage your website content, you need to be sure that person understands and agrees (in writing!) to comply with the license and to pay for your costs if you get sued as a result of their work.

What about photographs of your client’s house that the client gives you to use in marketing their property?  Do you have a system in place for ensuring that the client really owns them?  If they are owned by a third party such as a professional photographer, you could be on the hook for damages for copyright infringement!

The copyright holder can recover actual damages suffered or the statutory damages provided under the federal Copyright Act, at the copyright owner’s election. The Copyright Act provides for a wide range of damages up to $150,000 per work.

Real estate professionals would be wise to consider getting a client’s written assurance of copyright ownership before using any content the client provides. The assurance should also include a promise to pick up the tab for the damages if the client turns out to be wrong.

Would you like to have concise agreements for managing these risks? Drop me a line.

Michael Oswald

Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.

© 2018 Michael S. Oswald





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