Emily Erekuff, Real Estate Pro in Menifee, CA

Listing photo questions. Who owns the rights? Do agents have a duty to use new photos?

Asked by Emily Erekuff, Menifee, CA Fri Feb 24, 2012

Hi everyone. My relatives sold a home years ago and they've recently discovered that it's for sale again. They've also noticed that the listing photos being used are the very same ones they used in their sale which show their furniture and reflect the state of the home close to 10 years ago.

Is this a common practice?

Can my relatives do anything to prevent these old photos from being used in this current sale?

Thanks in advance for any help/insight!

Help the community by answering this question:


Rob Regan & Ciara Piron’s answer
I doubt your relatives have any say. The former listing agent might. Read the MLS rules. But the last time I read them this subject was more than a little confusing. However, one thing seemed clear at the time, once a photographer allows the photos to be used by the MLS you are ceding your rights to the MLS's rules. Note the new SFARMLS stamp on all photos that started a few months ago. Now it's really obvious whose photos they are.

The former agent may have a complaint, but we've had our photos lifted and re-used, as well as our exact marketing copy for a home used for another nearby home. And you know what we did about it? Nothing. There are bigger fish to fry. When the one agent took our exact photos, and didn't even add one new one, I thought to myself, why didn't he just call and ask. I would have given him my blessing. But if that is the nature of our competition, we will continue to thrive in this business by having greater integrity, better represented homes, greater creativity and greater care for our clients.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
It's a sad day when people can't take the initiative of producing their own photographs, verbage, advertising, etc. What does this say about our level of professionalism?

What's the difference between pirating someone's photography and thinking it is acceptable to pass yourself off as a false 911 hero? It's all about values, morals and the ability to make good decisions.......10 years, really!
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
One realtor copied my photos and posted on her listing I reported to MLSLISTING as violation.
They immediately removed my photos from her listing. The same listing agent
came to my open house handing out cards and I escorted her out of my home. It is this kind of
people give realtors a bad name.

This issue needs to be escalated. BRE may be an ultimate place to get resolved.
Another observation is realtors copy a home from Google and put it on the mls for commercial purpose.

Sam Shueh
KW realty
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 13, 2014
From realtor.org website...
"Under traditional copyright principles, the photographer owns the copyright for the picture taken by the photographer. Even if the photographer provides the negatives to a third party, there is no automatic authorization to make additional copies of the photograph unless the permission of the photographer has been obtained separately. This is also true with digital cameras, where a file is sent to the MLS. In each instance, it is necessary to evaluate who owns the copyright for the photograph and what is needed to allow the MLS to use that photograph without infringing the copyright owner’s rights."

I have encountered a situation where one of my listing photos was re-used by an agent. Upon contacting him several times, he reluctantly removed the photo. I would suggest contacting the agent first and then escalating if necessary. Re-using photos is unprofessional and unethical.

On a side note, feel free to reach out to me if you would like to hire a photographer to photograph your listings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Samples of my work and portfolio can be viewed here: http://www.homeclickr.com.

Web Reference: http://www.homeclickr.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 12, 2014
In my MLS we cannot use another agents photos if for example, I take over a listing that was cancelled. In fact, once a closed listing is a few months old, only front picture remains associated with that MLS number
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
Your best bet may be to contact the Multiple Listing Service which houses the listing and register a complaint. The listing agent is misleading the public. In addition, they are not using current nor an up to date representation of the property (aka: Mis-representation).

In San Francisco (San Francisco Association of Realtors), this is a fine-able violation of the rules of our association. Our association would need to have a communication from the previous owner or listing agent and our association would REMOVE the photos and send the agent a fine.

The current listing agent probably has no permission from the previous listing agent nor previous owner. If you have the old listing number and the current listing number and send it to the governing association with a complaint. They will deal with it right away!!

It is extremely important that agents represent a property in it's CURRENT condition to the public.

Best of luck

Herb Alston
Coldwell Banker
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
NO IT'S NOT. The photos belong to the original listing broker (not the listing agent). Even if they had the rights to the photos, they are bordering on misrepresentation by showing 10 year old photos.

Oggi Kashi - 415.690.3792 direct
Broker Associate, Paragon Real Estate Group CA DRE 01844627
All data from sources deemed reliable but subject to errors and omissions, and not warranted.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
Wow, that's a little shady. If it bothers your relatives I would Tell them to bring it up with Their local association or realtors office and see what they say? I don't think this is a common practice.
Web Reference: http://Stellaandmike.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
Technically it is not okay, they should have taken new pictures. You could contact the agent and ask them to be removed. Is this the biggest problem your relatives have? Are they ashamed of their old furniture? I wish I could trade them a few of my daily speed bumps.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
The photos are usually the property of the listing agent that took the photos/virtual tour or the local MLS. I have heard of cases where the new listing agent has asked permission from the previous listing agent to use the old photos or virtual tour. I have even heard of new listing agents offering compensation to the previous listing agent for any costs incured by the previous listing agent for use of their photos/ virtual tour. This, to me, is a very nice gesture since professionally done virtual tours, photos, and staging can be very costly to a realtor.

Aside form the realtors point of view though, the seller is the important one in this equation and may feel that their realtor is doing them a disservice by not advertising with up to date photos and information on the property. This could lead to unnecessary time on the market and showings where buyers were "fooled" by older photos and then once they see the property in person may want nothing to do with it. It does not show that the realtor is doing all they can to help promote the property.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
An interesting situation, but certainly not an uncommon practice, even if it borders on "misrepresentation" on the part of the "culprit". But, beyond that, nowadays many agents who are doing multiple things at multiple times on multiple properties, are known to expedite processes and procedures (cutting corners?) wherever possible. I heard one agent I know tell me that he rarely goes out to photograph a listing, especially when "... it's all the way in 'funtucky'..." His choice of "resource" GOOGLE MAPS, believe it or not.

As for what can be done by the former owner of a house that went into the history books, perhaps admire what was and reminisce at what might have been. Pursuing something more would be a waste of energy and resources -- but, people have been known to do more for less. With that in mind, call the board of Realtors where the property is located and see what they recommend (probably not too much), and perhaps it may be worth your time to pursue.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
The photographer normally "owns" all rights to the photos. Have your folks complain to the listing company and ask that they not use those photos. If they are 10 years old, you'd think they would want ones that are more up to date. My bet is that they would comply willingly.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
The photos in our MLS are owned by the MLS and/or the person who took them. They are not suppose to be used by the next listing agent. You can ask the new listing agent to stop using those photos and tell him/her to take their own.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
Whoever took the photos owns the photos. If you're asking about using photos from a time when the house was previously listed, I would tell you take the previous listing agent for the okay.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Jack McLaughlin
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
I know that out here the NWMLS has rules about which photos can be used again and which ones can't. I would call your MLS and ask them about it.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
The photos belong to the photographer that took them, then the agent and then the MLS that used them. It is a violation of copyright law if a different agent used them. I don't know how MNLS feels about it
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 11, 2014
Dear Emily ... If you feel strongly about this, I'd recommend contacting the realtor who listed their home back 10 years ago and ask if they have given permission for the use of the old photos. Or maybe just be flattered that they preferred your photos.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 11, 2014
Yes they can as they don't belong to the new agent! They belong to the agent that had the home listed before and the new agent is not allowed to use them. Besides its misleading to use pictures that are not accurate to the current owner. They can demand them removed, and you can speak to the listing brokers office or call the MLS office in that town, as they will definitely force them to change them.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 11, 2014
This does seem a bit odd! Who owns the photos would depend entirely on who took the photos. Most photography companies will have it in their contract that they own all photos that they take. If that's the case here and the new listing agent got permission from the photographer, they probably are allowed to use the old photos. However, regardless of who took and who owns the photos, it seems misrepresentative to show photos from 10 years ago for a house that is currently on the market!

I suggest contacting the listing agent and requesting that the photos be taken off the listing, maybe reminding them that they're showing photos of what could potentially be personal belongings of a family unrelated to this listing. If that doesn't work, find out who took the photos and what, if any, contract was signed for the photography to discern who exactly owns the photos. A real estate lawyer can help you from there if it's very important to you and your family that the photos aren't on the listing.

Hope this is helpful. If there's anything else I can do, please don't hesitate to ask!

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 11, 2014
Here on Long Island, once photo's are uploaded they are the property of the MLS. Also, our MLS rules prohibit anyone but the original listing broker to use the photos if the property is re-listed in the future.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 8, 2013
Here on Long Island, once photo's are uploaded they are the property of the MLS. Also, our MLS rules prohibit anyone but the original listing broker to use the photos if the property is re-listed in the future.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 8, 2013
Interesting thread...I am a member of the NWMLS and just noted the professional real estate photography I paid big money for (a Des Moines WA condo) is being used by the discount listing agency for a limited service listing of the same unit. I will definitely be contacting my local MLS and will share what I learn.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 8, 2013
Listing photos become the property of the MLS when inserted into the listing, period, just look at any MLS photo and you will see that statement printed on each picture.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 29, 2012
Thanks for the quick responses everyone! I'll send this to my folks and let them decide what action to take, and I'll do my best to post an update on the situation.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 24, 2012
Search Advice
Ask our community a question
Email me when…

Learn more

Copyright © 2014 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer