In school we were taught that plagiarism is a no-no. We learned that you didn’t steal someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. We get that. But then the Information Highway came along with easy access to written work, great music and fabulous photography. For some time, we joyously downloaded and shared of all kinds of creative products for free, barely thinking about the rights of the owner: the copyright. And there’s the rub.
To stem the tide, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed in 1998. It increased penalties for internet copyright infringements and criminalized technologies that circumvent digital rights management. We have watched this legislation play out with lawsuits from the music industry and the photography business.
“A misunderstanding of how you may use the photographs for property listings
could make you vulnerable to a lawsuit.” -NAR
How does this impact brokers? Unfortunately, many have unknowingly posted copyrighted images on websites and then received demand letters for compensation for the infringement. Most just pay up instead risking a lawsuit. However, you can protect yourself by doing a few things:
- If you did not create the content yourself, be wary of what you post. Make sure you have the right to do so. The days of grabbing a photo you found via a Google search and posting it to your website are over.
- Obtain a signed copyright release form from photographers. If you hire a photographer to take listing photos, spell out the ownership and permitted uses in writing. To assist you, IRES has posted three different copyright release forms here, provided by realtor.org. If you don’t already have an agreement drafted for photographers, use these templates as needed, and also consider discussing them with legal counsel.
- If you need a great looking photo for your site, purchase one online and be aware of the terms of the license agreement, or use royalty free images available at no charge, such as:
- Take advantage of the DMCA “Safe Harbor” provision to limit your liability. In the simplest terms, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows you to sign up for a nominal fee, be available to receive copyright complaints, and promptly take down any infringing materials. IRES has taken this step for ColoProperty.com® [you can see our DMCA Notice here] to and we recommend all brokers do the same. Click here to learn more about DMCA and how to implement the Safe Harbor provision on your site.
Remember the Golden Rule for the digital age:
If you didn’t create it, obtain permission to use it.