What to do if a Realtor Gives Away or Sells Your Photos
Having a photo stolen is a terrible feeling. Especially if it’s used in a way that clearly has broken the trust and agreement between you and your client. However, there are steps to take to react appropriately and achieve a good outcome.
This article will outline those steps and use some examples to better illustrate what you should do if a realtor or client gives away or sells your photos.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Think Before Reacting
The first thing you should do, and I mean what you need to do when you immediately find out that a realtor or client has let someone else use your photo, is to remain calm.
It’s the type of situation where it might seem as though it demands an immediate reaction, but that’s very rarely the case.
The best thing you can do is start to think about why the photo may have been passed along and what type of agreement you have with the realtor/client.
It’s also a good idea to ask yourself just how bad of a situation this might be.
Are your photographs now shared on a commercial website and being used for marketing purposes? That’s a big deal and definitely requires that some sort of action is taken.
On the other hard, was it a photo shared on a 3rd parties social media? This obviously isn’t as large of a deal and may not even have been the realtor/clients fault.
The point of these examples is to show that your response should be specific to the exact sort of infraction. Don’t put your business relationships at risk without first considering if it’s worth it.
Think about possible reason why your photo was shared and who may have had access to it. Think about your agreement with the client. Don’t just immediately accuse the realtor of stealing your photo.
It’s better to go into situations like this prepared rather than just angry.
Step 2: Reach Out to them Directly
The next step is the most obvious and also the most likely to work in my experience. Reach out to the realtor/client directly. Don’t comment or post something publicly on social media. Instead, text, call, or DM. However you normally privately message each other.
Ask them in a nice way if they know why your photo has been shared. Chances are they do and you can start a conversation around it.
You then must figure out what you want to happen. Do you want the photos taken down or removed immediately? Do you want to be compensated? Do you even need to care?
This is going to be a personal preference. As illustrated in the last step with the 2 examples, you will need to decide what you want to happen based on how important you feel the specific situation is.
Personally, if it was a simple social media post, I would just asked to be tagged and then remind the offending party of their contractual obligation to not share my images. Let them know it’s not a big deal but to please not do it in the future.
And if my photos were being used in a marketing campaign or to sell a home again? I’d be looking to receive full compensation.
Once you decide what you want to happen, let the realtor know and see what they have to say. Chances are they will agree with what you have to say and will either take the images down or make a payment.
On the other hand, if they refuse to pay or respect the agreement and your copyright, then you can move on to step 3.
Step 3: Alert the Broker or Your Local MLS
Assuming this is a local realtor, you can reach out to both their broker as well as your local MLS. I would suggest starting with their broker since they’re more likely to respond in a timely manner.
If they’re a realtor with ‘XYZ Realty’, reach out to XYZ Realty directly and inform them that one of their agents is currently breaking their agreement with you or in copyright violation. You can think of this as just letting their boss know what’s going on.
The broker is likely to take this issue more seriously since they’ll have a greater appreciation for how serious of a matter copyright infringement can be.
Assuming all goes well, you can expect to have the photos taken down or to be paid rather quickly. XYZ Reality does not want to be sued and what your asking is not only reasonable and fair, but it’s also an issue of legality.
You don’t need to threaten to call a lawyer, but you can say something like “I just want to be fairly compensated. I do not want to get a lawyer involved.” Even though it’s the next step, it’s not a very enjoyable one.
You can also reach out to your local MLS if the photos have been used by another agent or to re-sell a house you photographed in the past. They should remove the photos eventually if you can prove they’re yours and you haven’t given the rights to use them.
This can take longer and will greatly depend on your local MLS though. Contacting the broker is a better bet.
Step 4: Contact a Lawyer
Contacting a lawyer is the final step really. If it’s come to this point and you are dead set on your plan, then you’ll eventually have to get a lawyer involved.
I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t get a lawyer involved. If your photos were used for marketing or commercial purposes, you absolutely should be compensated and should do whatever you can to make sure that happens.
However, if it’s a small infraction type deal, like a social media post example we’ve been discussing, then it might be best to save your energy and just drop that client.
Assuming you do lawyer up though, it will be up to you to prove that you own the photo and they are using it without your consent. It shouldn’t be hard to prove if you have an agreement written or a contract in place.
After that, it’s pretty much out of your hands.
It’s really important to think about just how detailed and nuanced these situations can be. There are so many aspects to consider before you can decide what the best course of action is.
If you’re worried you might lose the client by taking action, think about how important the client is to you and your business. Then balance that against the size of the infraction committed.
It’s a delicate situation that needs to be handled as such. Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t damage your own brand and credibility in the process.
Calling people out publicly on social media and making a big scene can reflect negatively on you. There are proper steps to take that won’t damage your reputation but will still achieve a good outcome.
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