Architectural Photographer Sues Multiple Listing Service For Copyright Infringement

Posted on 8/21/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Alan J. Goldstein, a professional photographer located in Silver Spring, MD has commenced a legal action against Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. ("MRIS"), located in Rockville, MD, for violations of the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The legal action is Case # 8:15-cv-2400 (TDC) (D. Md.).

Mr. Goldstein, a professional photographer for over 35 years, works primarily on assignment for advertising agencies and builders. His portfolio, at, reflects fine arts and commercial photography, and his subjects include regional architecture, monuments, and events.

MRIS operates an online multiple listing service ("MLS") database compiling images and information regarding properties for sale. This database is by used real estate agents and brokers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Consumers are generally familiar with the MLS database from working with agents and brokers to buy and sell property. Typically, a listing includes a photographic showcase of the home, the land and the local setting.  Local subscribers to the services of MRIS include Long & Foster, Keller Williams and Weichert.

The particular photograph at issue is an image of the platform at the Silver Spring, Md. Metro station.  Mr. Goldstein displayed the photograph on his website as part of a collection featuring landmarks in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As is his practice, it was watermarked with his copyright notice and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
At some point, the photograph was copied from Mr. Goldstein's website without his authorization and uploaded to the MRIS database, where another copyright notice in the name of MRIS was affixed (as shown in the photo with two copyright notices).

Based on its practices, it is believed that MRIS also registered the photograph in its own name.  This image evidently has considerable eye appeal, as MRIS and its subscribers have used it about 100 times in connection with listings for properties in the Silver Spring area. Due to such rampant copying, the value of the image for future licensing or display has been substantially diminished or perhaps even destroyed, as Mr. Goldstein cannot promise exclusivity of use.
Mr. Goldstein believes these types of violations are more common than suspected due to the ease of digital copying. He urges other photographers to search for unauthorized uses of their own works. The "search by images" tool on the Google Images site can be useful for this purpose.

Copyright © 2015 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Uri Lavi Posted Aug 25, 2015
    Using Google Search is a very tedious and manual process.
    It's more practical and advisable to liaise with one stop shop service, such as PicScout EtE -, that constantly monitors the usages on the web and ensures the content is being licensed correctly and copyright infringements are settled for a fee covering the lost revenues.

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