Photography is an essential marketing tool when it comes to selling and letting properties, especially for online listings.

Where an estate agent has been instructed to sell or let the property, one of the jobs that they’ll do is taking or arranging property photography. But once those images have been taken, who owns the photographs?

To figure this out, we’ll first have to take a look at copyright law in the UK.

UK copyright law

In the UK, you’re automatically given copyright of any original work that you create, including:

  • Artistic work such as literary pieces, music, artwork, illustration and photography
  • Software, web content and databases
  • Sound and music recordings
  • Broadcasts, including film and TV recordings

This prevents people from copying, using and distributing your work without permission.

You can, however, license your work, allowing others to use it under certain conditions, as well as selling or transferring your copyright to someone else.

Let’s look at some scenarios to determine who owns the photographs in each case.

Estate agent takes property photographs

If a representative of the instructed estate agency takes photographs of the property, those images belong to the estate agency.

They can therefore be used by the company to promote the property as they see fit, including any photo editing. The owner of the property has no claim to ownership of the photos unless the contract contains any specific mention of copyright ownership that states otherwise.

Third-party photographer takes property photographs

The estate agency may choose to hire a third-party photographer to take professional shots of the property. In this instance, the images belong to the photographer, unless copyright is expressly transferred in writing.

For some photographers, transferral of copyright may be standard practice when hired by an estate agent, or it may require a formal request. Others may own the images outright but license them to the agency for specified use.

Homeowner takes property photographs

If the homeowner chooses to take their own property photography, they own those images. While the estate agency may be permitted to use them for marketing purposes, they have no ownership to them.

This means that they would need to request permission or copyright transfer should they wish to edit the images or use them for any other purpose. It may be wise to stipulate certain usage terms within the contract of service to ensure that copyright is not breached.

Reusing existing property photographs

When a property is put up for sale or to let relatively soon after the last time it was on the market, it might be tempting to use existing property photography to save time. Whether this is permitted relates back to the original copyright owner when the images were created.

If a third-party photographer took the photos and the agency was only provided with a licensed right to use them for a particular use case, they may be in breach of copyright if they reuse them. If copyright was transferred to the estate agency, either through written agreement or sale, then the images are theirs to do with as they please.

Who owns the photographs? Add a watermark to make it clear!

If you’ve fallen victim of a rival agent stealing your photos, stamping your logo as a watermark on your images is a great way you can personalise and protect your property photos.

Adding your watermark to images is one of our Essential edits that we can perform as standard and at no extra cost when you place an Image Enhancement order with us.

Make your property photographs stand out

No matter who’s taken your property photography, you want the images to look their best. Beautiful images are going to help it stand out among the other listings and show the property in its best light.

Elements Property’s Image Enhancement service provides those all-important tweaks. These could be the difference between a quick sale and a property that’s hanging around on the books. Just make sure that you own the copyright first!

For a free trial, simply use code BLOG55 when you register your account.

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