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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

Comments

Legal issues.  You have to be very careful out here.  Vanilla Ice for example.

Posted by Nate Rowe, Realtor, Homes in Richmond VA (Oakstone Properties, Homes in Richmond VA ) almost 11 years ago

That was a great post, very informative. I consider myself a computer expert, and a photo buff, but I have never uploaded a video to youtube. I think I will now - and I will get the music for the site you suggested.

Thanks

Paul

Posted by Paul McDuell (Realty Benefit) almost 11 years ago

SOOO important to know this Tara !!!

And very helpful tips - I'm going to check out digitaljuice.com.

Great job as always :o)

Posted by Sheldon Neal, That British Agent Bergen County NJ (Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited) almost 11 years ago

Nate-  HA!  Who could forget good ol' Vanilla?  ;-)

Paul-  Thanks.  Good luck on with your uploads.  Be sure to check out other hosting sites as well such as Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and of course, Active Rain!  YouTube's compression tend to be the most severe causing your video to look a little more "grainy" than the rest.  Let us know if we can ever be of any assistance.

Sheldon-  Thanks.  Digital Juice is great.  We use it all the time and can usually find exactly what we're looking for :-) 

Posted by Tara Jones- Atlanta, GA (Reel Productions TV- Real Estate Video ) almost 11 years ago

Though not considered a true video, ALL of our listings have podcasts and are the best mechanism for maximizing Google searches than any other means.  It has to be kept to a minute to be effective and get appropriate "hits"..........

Posted by TIM MONCRIEF, Over 2,000 homes sold….. (Tim Monciref) almost 11 years ago

Tara, thanks for the heads up on digitaljuice.com - they appear to be very reasonably priced, which is something I've had a hard time finding.

Posted by Lisa Heindel, New Orleans Real Estate Broker (Crescent City Living LLC) almost 11 years ago

Maybe I should sing on all of my listing videos.  Have you heard me sing?  I could make thousands of dollar with a concert hall... I would charge people to get out. 

Posted by Lane Bailey, Realtor & Car Guy (Century 21 Results Realty) almost 11 years ago

Lane- You are hysterical!  I could give you my software program, Garage Band, where you can really make some magic!  

Posted by Tara Jones- Atlanta, GA (Reel Productions TV- Real Estate Video ) almost 11 years ago

I have to admit that I really suck on Guitar Hero too... can you believe that I used to actually play an instrument. 

Posted by Lane Bailey, Realtor & Car Guy (Century 21 Results Realty) almost 11 years ago

Tara, thanks for the great and informative post!  I see a lot of videos where others (and myself) shoot personal items (furniture, paintings, etc.) and have just assumed it is to give an idea on how to decorate the home or to give perspective to a certain room.  I guess I need to start adding a disclaimer at the end of my videos...something like 'not all items in this video are included in the sale'.  Do you have a disclaimer you use and if so, can you share it?  Thanks again for the post! 

Posted by Terri Adams-Scott, Realtor, Walnut Creek CA Real Estate (J. Rockcliff, REALTORS) almost 11 years ago

Terri-  We do use a disclaimer but it interwoven into our agreement that we use with our clients.  All you need is a simple, "I grant permission for _________(your name here) to use my name, face and likeness as part of this video."...or something to that effect...and have them sign it.  That should have your covered!  

Posted by Tara Jones- Atlanta, GA (Reel Productions TV- Real Estate Video ) almost 11 years ago

Tara...thanks for the response...it is appreciated!

Posted by Terri Adams-Scott, Realtor, Walnut Creek CA Real Estate (J. Rockcliff, REALTORS) almost 11 years ago

Hi Tara,

Great post!

It seems like we are constantly explaining to people why they can't upload their own music to our tours. And the story about the company your partner worked for confirms just how serious they are about licensing. The tour providers who allow people to use their own music are really running a risk, and they are also doing their customers a real disservice.

In addition to a 'talent' release for people on-camera, we sometimes suggest that people use a 'location' release - just to be safe.

By the way, I've watched some of your 'how-to' videos before and gone to your site, and you guys are one of the few that are truly professionals and doing things right. And that's what this industry needs more of.

Thanks again for this post.

 

Posted by Michael Cole (CPG Tours) almost 11 years ago

Thanks so much, Michael!  I so appreciate your compliments :-)  

And thank you for the addition of the 'location' release...great idea.  You can never cover your bases too much. 

Posted by Tara Jones- Atlanta, GA (Reel Productions TV- Real Estate Video ) almost 11 years ago

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