VHT rival PlanOmatic changes photo copyright terms after Zillow lawsuit

The firm's new policy will allow brokers to use photos 'how they see fit'
  • Real estate photography company PlanOmatic has announced it will assign copyright and ownership of listing photos to its broker clients.
  • The new policy is meant to allow brokers to use listing photos as they see fit without worrying about legal ramifications.
  • PlanOmatic did not previously sell or license listing photos, so it is not foregoing any revenue as a result of the new policy.
  • Real estate agents and brokers may not want to tackle the misuse of listing photos themselves, according to the CEO of PlanOmatic rival VHT.

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Earlier this month, a federal court awarded real estate photography company VHT $8.3 million in a copyright infringement suit against Zillow Group. Now, in what may seem like a counterintuitive move, VHT rival PlanOmatic announced that it will assign ownership and copyright of the listing photos taken by its photographers to its real estate broker clients. In its announcement, PlanOmatic specifically referenced the VHT case and said the verdict in that case convinced PlanOmatic that listing photos should be owned by the listing broker. VHT did not name any brokers or MLSs in its case against Zillow -- but the possibility that brokers or MLSs could be liable if they tried to give third parties (like Zillow) additional photo rights hung over the case like a specter. In their 2016 book Real Estate Listings & Copyright, attorneys Brian Larson and Mitchell Skinner wrote, "f the brokers or MLSs are purporting to license these photos to Zillow after the listings go off-mark...