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Q: Legally photographing the inside of a home during an open house. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Legally photographing the inside of a home during an open house.
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: dlieske-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 30 Dec 2005 07:47 PST
Expires: 29 Jan 2006 07:47 PST
Question ID: 611287
To legally take a picture at an open house (Inside the home) do you
need written, verbal permission first.  Taking a picture of the house
from the outside is OK so how about the inside?  Considering they have
invited you in?
Subject: Re: Legally photographing the inside of a home during an open house.
Answered By: siliconsamurai-ga on 30 Dec 2005 10:00 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi, I hope I can provide the information you need.

The short answer is that, unless specifically told otherwise by
clearly posted signs, you can probably take all the pictures you wish,
especially if it is done openly.

The details, however, can get complicated both because of copyright
restrictions and other legal concerns which are generally the same
everywhere in the U.S.

Please bear with me, the details would fill volumes of law books so I
will summarize based on my experience but with links below for further

While it is legal in every U.S. jurisdiction I know about (I am a
long-time photojournalist and member of The National Press Club of
Washington) to take those photographs, that doesn?t mean you can do
anything with the photographs you take other than view them yourself.

The problem here is a question of whether you have the rights to
?publish? images of someone else?s property without written permission
and there is no clear cut answer unless you not only ask permission,
but get a signed model release from the owner of the property
(possibly the real estate agent but that depends on a lot of other
factors including state laws and their contract with the seller.)

Publishing is a technical term and means showing the images to anyone
who wasn?t present when you took the picture.

Now for the good news - if you don't mind annoying people, you can not
only take the pictures of anything in plain sight, you can do
virtually anything you like with them unless you intentionally and
"maliciously" use them to the detriment of the owner or agent. In this
case malicious use means what you use them to demonstrate is, in fact,
known to you to be false. (For instance, you take pictures and try to
defame someone by showing they have either cheap furnishings or
perhaps very expensive ones that may be beyond their obvious means.)

Practically speaking, no court would uphold a complaint against you
unless you profited by taking the pictures, and almost certainly not
even then with the single exception I just stated (malicious intent).

If this is an advertised open house then it might be construed as a
public event meaning that you can take and use photographs any way you
want even absent any other signs or agreements to the contrary.

Some things to consider is whether you will be including images of
other people who may object, so lets just stick to the property

You may run into trouble of a related nature (liable) if you take
pictures in an effort to make the property look bad and publish them -
that is similar to the malicious use rule for journalists. (By the
way, if you have a Blog you can probably argue you are a journalist.)

Ethically, unless you are a reporter and suspect someone is trying to
hide something, you really should ask permission, but that isn't a
legal question.

Legally, it probably depends mostly on your intent but this could land
you in civil court even if you are right legally. It?s no fun to get
sued, even if you win.

Google Search Term:
photographs fair use

It happens that there is a recent article in USA Today

which is right on point ? the fact that it is about digital cameras is irrelevant.

You will find a reporter?s guide to privacy at:

To summarize:

There are some other links in the USA Today article but the bottom
line is that if you are someplace legally (and often even if you are
not), you can legally photograph almost anything which is in plain
sight, even if the owner objects.

You can probably also publish what you photograph, either by showing
it to other people or even in print or on the Internet.

I hope this answers your question ? my only caution to you is the one
I stated above ? you can be in the right and still end up having a
rough time.

In this particular instance, I seriously doubt anyone would object to
you photographing anything in plain sight during an open house.  And,
especially if you identify the source, I bet both the owner and the
real estate agent would be thrilled if you publish them as widely as

In essence, if you photograph something which the owner didn't want
seen, photographed, and published, it was their responsibility to get
it out of sight before opening up a house to visitors.

Although I have referred to the rights of journalists, most of these
same rules apply to anyone and are not limited to accredited

Clarification of Answer by siliconsamurai-ga on 01 Jan 2006 12:43 PST
Thank you very much for the nice rating and especially for the tip.
dlieske-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Wow,  Very nice answer thank you for your time!!!!

Subject: Re: Legally photographing the inside of a home during an open house.
From: mizzouguy08-ga on 30 Dec 2005 08:14 PST
I am actually a real estate agent in Missouri (Though I don't actively
sell/list homes; I work on the mortgage side of the deal) and I have
attended many open houses across the state.  I don't know about the
legality of of photographs, etc 9i'll leave that to the Google guys!)
but as a common courtesy, I would recommend ALWAYS asking the host,
agent, or resident before clicking away.  In case someone does have a
problem with you taking photos it would create a very bad situation,
and it is always a good idea to ask someone before you start
photodocumenting thier home.  Also your purpose will definitly be
something to consider: I might have a problem with someone taking
pictures of my house just for the sake of having pictures of my home's
setup but if they are interested in purchasing and they are comparing
homes, it would probably be okay.  I had a client once who was
actually robbed about a week after an open house so some people might
be a tad edgy with photos.  Just a bit of insight from the industry...
Subject: Re: Legally photographing the inside of a home during an open house.
From: richard-ga on 30 Dec 2005 18:08 PST
The Photographer's Guide cited in the above Answer reaches the
opposite conclusion:
"Consent to enter a home may not be consent to photograph it. Consent
exceeded can be the same as no consent at all."

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