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Away From Home

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Photo labs rejecting pictures

From the brilliant Lawrence Lessig:

So the world is bursting with extremely cheap, very good high quality digital cameras. No doubt the vast majority of images snapped (is that the verb these days?) with those cameras are by people who have no interest in enforcing a copyright. Yet as Grant pointed out to me, the AP reports, an increasing number of photo labs are refusing to print "high quality" digital images, out of fear that they "might" be professional photographs, and therefore, "printing the pictures might be a copyright violation."

This begins to make plain a point Rusty Russell suggested to me in an email recently: No doubt copyright is a property right. But why isn't anyone out there defending the property rights of digital camera owners? This is a conflict in property rights, produced by an insanely inefficient property system -- copyright. The solution is not, as some seem to believe, to abolish copyright. It is instead to abolish the insanely inefficient part. Yet it is the character of our time: to argue against inefficiency is to mark yourself as a "communist."

Do you take good pictures? Then you can forget about getting them developed -- at least without a fight.

It seems that when the rights of big corporations begin so directly impacting the rights of the ordinary consumer, then there is a flaw somewhere that needs to be corrected. Historically, such flaws have been "corrected" in the favor of the big (read: rich) corporations.

What will happen here? Time will tell.

[By the way, this coincides nicely with a topic I've been turning over in my mind for a few days -- the (possibly) out-of-control nature of our copyright system. Expect a full post on this in the near future.]


  • I think this would be solved by giving the printers reasonable protection on the grounds that they are at the mercy of their customers, like not being liable if there is no identifying mark of copyright on the print. Also, change the system of registration to work faster, perhaps incorporating the internet instead of requiring photographers to ship in copies of their work and wait to publish them until they get paperwork back.

    Also, photographers could stop a lot of this by not being such packrats with licenses. I, for example, plan to offer my clients lifetime licenses with high-quality digital files of their photographs for a fair price.

    Good post, Scott.

    By Blogger Logan C. Adams, at 6/21/2005 07:44:00 PM  

  • To clarify and continue;

    In the day of high-quality consumer flatbed scanners, photographers need to change their business model. They used to pretty much control printing, so they could charge by print and never have any trouble. Those days are gone. And may they never return.

    I've talked to lots of wedding photographers who are glad to sell licenses and hand over negatives, because they make more cash up front, have to do less work, and get the greatest advertising known to man.

    Here's the deal: give a person free reign to make lots of copies of the pictures you made for him/her, charge them a nice price for it, and guess what they'll do? They'll make lots of prints. And they will share/show off those prints, bragging about the quality they got from who? Their photographer, whom they will name (especially if this is a wedding, senior pics, portraits or big event) to all their friends, family, and to other potential clients asking about YOU, the photographer.

    If you can't compete, too bad.

    And with that, I will shut up. At least for a little while.

    By Blogger Logan C. Adams, at 6/21/2005 07:57:00 PM  

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