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
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:
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
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