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Technology and Legality: Direct sales your way with video

I was recently interviewed by Real Law Central...a website that focuses on the legal issues facing real estate agents.  Because they are a subscription based site I was only allowed to post an excerpt from the article.  I felt the following information was the most pertinent. 

Real estate broker, Brain Copeland of Nashville was the other featured interview in the story. 


Issue Date: RealLawCentral.com - Feb. 16, 2009, Posted On: 2/5/2009
Industry News 

Technology and legality: Direct sales your way with video

Many real estate brokers and agents don’t use video home tours as part of their marketing plans, but as millions of people view sites like YouTube each day and more prospective buyers begin their home searches online, some industry experts wonder what’s holding agents back. Here, we examine the ways others have found innovative ways to utilize video and turn the technology into leads and sales.

Tara Jones, co-owner of Reel Productions TV in the metro-Atlanta area, understands that technology can be intimidating. A former reporter for WSB-TV in Atlanta, Jones and her business partner TJ Hedges provide video production services for real estate professionals.

Jones said real estate agents and brokers already have to be jacks-of-all-trades for their customers. For those who don’t have the time and expense to devote to creating and marketing video tours, companies like Jones’s take the reins. Other real estate professionals, though, have tackled the job themselves.

Assume nothing, get permission

The biggest offenders of video tour production are those who use music that they are not permitted to use. Copeland warned that agents shouldn’t assume no one will notice they’ve used a song without proper permission.

“The biggest mistakes that agents make are, they say, ‘I’m going to put the song “Our House” in the background.’ That’s the biggest mistake you can make, because you are breaking the law. So while you may have this great idea to use it, you’ll have to go on the side on non-creativity in those cases,” Copeland said.

Using songs that are copyright protected without permission is a violation of the law, and the federal government won’t simply look the other way if it finds a violation, even if the agent pleads ignorance.

Jones said her business partner, Hedges, once worked with a mass duplication company that was retained to produce 100 copies of a DVD which happened to include songs for which the DVD producer had not obtained permission to use.

“The FTC came in and asked if they had a license for the songs that were on there. Once they got done slapping the fines on, the company got a $7 million bill,” Jones said. “They went bankrupt and lost the whole business, and they weren’t even the ones producing the DVD, they were just duplicating it. So it really has this unbelievable trickle-down effect.”

Avoiding steep fines is simple: go to a site with royalty-free music like royaltyfreemusic.com or digitaljuice.com. Those sites charge a one-time fee, but it pales in comparison to the fines an agent could face for using a song without permission. Songs at many of the sites range from about $10 per song to $99 for access to an entire library of music. The songs featured on the sites won’t include the latest hit by Beyonce, but they do have genres of music like contemporary, jazz, Latin and others that “don’t sound like elevator music,” Jones said.

Before shooting video of a home, Jones advised that agents first get permission from the seller — of course — and check the contract and disclosures to ensure nothing that is shot and portrayed as a “feature” of the house isn’t actually leaving with the seller.

Once during a shooting of a home, Jones and Hedges noticed a beautiful set of front doors and asked the agent, “almost in jest,” whether the doors were staying with the house, certain that they would be perfect to shoot for the video. It’s a good thing she asked, Jones said.

“We went and looked at the disclosure and sure enough, they were taking the front door,” Jones said. “Assume nothing. If in doubt, look at that disclosure.”

When shooting a video neighborhood tour, agents should remember that public streets are fine to shoot and require no permission. Any private property, though, like a mall or a pizza parlor, will need the thumbs-up from the owner.

Before posting any videos online, agents who are affiliated with a brokerage should make sure the company doesn’t have any rules or restrictions in place regarding the technology. Some larger brokerages, Jones said, are finding that inexperienced agents who post less-than-professional videos and include the company brand may be harming the brokerage more than they are helping.

Even client testimonials can result in legal wrangling if not handled appropriately, Copeland advised. He provides a release to any client before shooting video of them. Although some real estate professionals may expect that since it is their own client, they “won’t care” about taking video, Copeland said that’s not a safe assumption, and agents should protect themselves, just as they would in any real estate contract.

“You never know. Relationships go sour. Every single person who ever gets on a camera with me has to sign a release,” Copeland said.

For the full story, please visit www.reallawcentral.com

Comment balloon 14 commentsTara Jones- Atlanta • February 10 2009 06:45PM
Technology and Legality: Direct sales your way with video
I was recently interviewed by Real Law Central.. a website that focuses on the legal issues facing real estate agents. Because they are a subscription based site I was only allowed to post an excerpt from the article… more