3 Rules to Avoid a Copyright Claim on the Photos You Use

Follow these steps to ensure you’re not running afoul of the law when using pictures online.

You have blogs, brochures and social media pages to fill with content, and a photo can be worth a thousand words—or a stiff financial penalty if you’re not minding copyright laws. Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense against accusations or lawsuits.

“A copyright owner owns the rights to reproduce, distribute copies, perform, display and prepare derivative works of the copyrighted material,” Chloe Hecht, senior counsel at the National Association of REALTORS®, says in the latest “Window to the Law” video. “Using a copyrighted work without permission is an infringement and could result in liability.”

Hecht offers several tips in the video to minimize risks of a copyright infringement accusation, including:

  • Check permissions. Do you have permission from the owner to reuse the image or reprint the text? Permissions are also needed to use music in podcasts or videos or even at events.
  • Don’t rely on a third party’s compliance. You still need to obtain permission from the copyright owner or ensure that the third party does. “The owner may not be immediately apparent, so budget time to conduct any necessary research and to communicate with the owner about permission,” Hecht cautions. “If you cannot determine who the owner is, don’t use the work.”
  • Get permission in writing. If you’re granted permission, use a license agreement that describes the scope of work that you’re permitted to use. For your listing photos, NAR has created sample photo agreements that could be used with photographers.