You can’t get there from here. or…Why you can’t use Google Earth for an inexpensive aerial shot of “for sale” property.

On occasion, I have an idea so brilliant, so sensible, so easy that I figure that everyone should be doing it! But they aren’t. So it must be illegal. I’m unfortunately correct.

Without further ado, “Why can’t real estate agents use Google Earth or Google Maps for aerial photos or roadside photos?”

It seems so easy. It’s free. It’s publicly available. It should just be a matter of a couple of screenshots. Throw down some property lines with Paint and voila!  Now my clients can see what’s around them, where the property lines are and what it looks like. Easy.


An example of what you can’t do, shown here for purely educational/illustrative purposes

But then you hit the sticking point. Commercial usage. You’re trying to use the imagery to sell something. It’s not for educational purposes. It’s not some free thing you made. It’s not a comparison. It’s not a parody. It’s commercial. So you’re out of the legal territory of fair use. Now you need a license. You need permission.

So how much can a license cost to use screenshots? A few hundred dollars? maybe a Google Pro license? How much can that possibly cost?

It’s not for sale.

Google doesn’t sell on an image by image basis. They will sell you a license to use the Google Maps API for $10,000/year. That would let you place Google Map functionality on your commercial website. Regretfully, MLS isn’t about to let agents start adding APIs to their listings.

But I don’t need that! I just want some dumb jpgs! But the Google license doesn’t cover screenshots.

You can’t get there from here. You can’t get there from anywhere. It’s not a service/product that Google offers. That’s why you can’t do it.

“I understand your frustration, we have a lot of customers who say the same thing. [That a screengrab license would be awesome and greatly desired for real estate agents] I wish there was something I could offer you, but unfortunately I don’t make these decisions.” 

-the very kind Google representative with whom I spent a number of hours corresponding

Back to trying to get a commercial drone operators license….

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