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Real Estate Photographs Online

A recent Federal Court appeal considered the scope of the right to use photographs taken when marketing a house for sale.  This decision is relevant to anyone who wishes to commercialise data that they obtain for one purpose for a different purpose.

The real estate agent engages a photographer to photograph a house that is for sale, with the intent to upload the photographs onto a real estate sales portal such a RealEstate.com.au or Domain.com.au to advertise the property for sale.  The REA portal has terms that bind the real estate agent.  These terms include the right to sublicense the photographs and the listing information to CoreLogic RP Data for their property information database. 

The court found, in a 2-1 split judgment, that merely because the photographer allowed the photos to be uploaded to REA did not mean that the photographer agreed to REA's terms or agreed to allow the photographs to be sublicensed to CoreLogic RP Data.

In effect, the real estate agent is in breach of the REA contract by uploading the photos in these circumstances.  The license from the photographer to the real estate agent to allow the upload to REA is, in effect, useless unless the agent also obtains terms from the photographer that match the REA license.

CoreLogic RP Data is now in breach of the photographer's copyright.

A strange result. 

Hardingham v RP Data Pty Limited [2021] FCAFC 148

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