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  • Risk Management for Real Estate Firms

    Game Plan

    In-Depth

    Copyright Issues in Marketing

    Real estate marketing depends on generating excitement and sex appeal through beautiful visuals and descriptive content in print publications and on websites, blogs, and social media sites. Creating original content takes effort, writing skills, and a certain amount of technical proficiency. So it can be tempting to simply cut and paste someone else’s work. But doing so will almost certainly put you in violation of copyright laws.

    Owners of copyrighted content, such as stock photo companies, take this very seriously. And it’s easy for them to use Google’s image search to find where their images are being used on the Internet. It’s just as easy to discover if someone has lifted text content by simply pasting an entire article into the Google search window. If a copyright holder finds you are using their content, a cease and desist letter from their attorney may be the first step they take to enforce their rights. A demand for payment or a lawsuit could follow.

    Mitigation Measures

    • The cameras in newer smartphones are quite good. Get in the habit of taking pictures of anything you think might be of use in your marketing materials. This way, you’ll build your own library of images that you own.
    • If you use photos from another source, get written releases authorizing use. The fines imposed by commercial stock photo houses for uploading images to websites without ownership or permission can be $1,000 or more per image.
    • Pay particular attention to the rules for Multiple Listing Services. If you upload your own photo to the MLS, you may be transferring ownership to the MLS, meaning, you no longer own the rights to that photo. Read the fine print.
    • Work with your attorney to develop a written policy for your office that defines copyright infringement, and lists accepted and prohibited activities. Train everyone in the office to follow the protocols.