Sharing product photos from customers, with customers

I’m unsure about the legality of the sharing images that are collected from customers, with other customers.
These photos are mostly pictures of flooring, as my company makes flooring and sells only to contractors who install the flooring. Many of the photos have been in our image library for years before I came along. A lot of them have been taken with cell phones and were given to us (or at least that is what I hear) by contractors who install the flooring, or the owners of the buildings where the flooring was installed. Most of these images are clearly not taken by professional photographers.
These images are used on our brochures and on our website.
Our clients often ask if they can use some of our images for their own marketing materials. I do give them the photos that I myself produced for the company but I hesitate to give away the photos that were “gifted” to us.
Our company doesn’t have a procedure for those things and before I came along they would just hand out whatever photos to whoever wanted them.
Its one of my goals to get procedures in place for these things to avoid problems in the future as our company grows. I’m the only in-house marketing and design person and the only one who understands that copyright infringement for photos is a thing.
How much ownership can we take over these images? If I needed to, how could I begin to track down the original author of a photo when I don’t know who installed the floor or where the floor is even located?
Is it just bad business to give one contractors photos to another?
Should I be giving written permission when sharing our self produced images?
Are there any good resources for building a protocol for these things?

In all that uncertainty, one thing is certain: if you’re not sure if the copyright belongs to your company, you can’t be sure that you’re not infringing on someone else’s copyright by using that photo in marketing materials.

Whether anyone would really care if their flooring photos were used might be doubtful, but it’s possible (especially commercially shot photos). Whether or not anything would ever come from it might also be doubtful, but it’s still a potential problem.

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I would create a photo release form and have people sign it when they give you photos—something saying they took the photos themselves or got permission, for example.


It isn’t only the taker of the photo from whom you need a release.
The property owner is involved as well (property release.)
Especially where the photo might be of a corporate space or in any way shows branding that might be construed as an endorsement. We take a lot of photos of our finished product, but there are some clients that don’t allow certain uses, especially when it comes to the internet and SEO.

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Good point. Plus, if there are any people shown in the photo…

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