Listing Photo Licensing & Ownership Reminder

This is a periodic reminder to members that photo ownership and licensing are important considerations when listing a property in the MLS.

Too busy to read? We recommend that you watch this video from the National Association of REALTORSĀ® covering “Copyright Best Practices for Listing Photos.”


Here’s a resolution that’s easy to keep: make sure that you own or properly license the photos used in your listings.

Copying photos from other listings, or taking them from the web, could lead to copyright claims and payment demands from the entities that own them. There were a few disputes last year, and while they were resolved amicably, you can avoid the hassle by taking extra care at the outset!

To ensure that you’re in the clear, you can hire a professional photographer. In fact, photographers that specialize in real estate will be more likely to understand your needs, as well as the practical and legal aspects of photo ownership, licensing, and use in the MLS and elsewhere. And if you engage a photographer that is new to the industry, NAR even provides sample agreements that you can use with them.

(Taking your own original photos, of course, is another way to ensure ownership and copyright is clear.)

It’s important to note that these issues extend beyond listing photos in the MLS. They apply to photos used on agent and broker websites, in promotional materials, and elsewhere. A simple rule of thumb? “If you don’t know where the photo came from, don’t use it.

Licensing and Copyright in the MLS Rules:

As subscribers to the MLS and users of the REsearch system, you are bound by the MLS Rules and Regulations. Article VII covers licensing and copyright, indemnifying HIS from claims of copyright infringement. This section also includes sample language that you can use when engaging a photographer to take listing photos.

Our rules document was last reviewed and updated by the HIS Board of Directors in October 2018, and is worth reviewing periodically:

http://hawaiiinformation.com/REsearch/IDX/mlshawaii/forms/MLSRules.pdf

Additional Reading:

We hope this periodic reminder helps you steer clear of the potential pitfalls of listing photo ownership and licensing. If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!