June 08, 2005

Labs refuse to print "professional-looking" photos

by Guest Contributor

[Jed Sorokin-Altmann] This one is a few days old, but it's rather interesting... According to signonsandiego.com, photofinishing labs are refusing to print "professional-looking" photographs taken by amateurs, based on a fear of violating professional photographers' copyrights.

As an example, the article discusses the problem faced by amateur photographer Zee Helmick, who was unable to print photos at a Wal-Mart near her home:

She had taken the photos of her son that morning to use as head shots for an audition for a TV commercial. She had used her photo-editing software to add his name, information about him and even her own copyright to make the image look more polished, Helmick said.
She uploaded the 8-by-10-inch photos to Walmart.com, which prints photos sent to the site at a nearby store for customers to pick up.

At the store, Helmick said a clerk told her, "We can't release the pictures to you."
"What's wrong?" Helmick asked.

"We can't release the pictures to you without a copyright release form signed by the photographer," the clerk replied, according to Helmick.

The clerk said the photos looked like a professional had taken them, Helmick said. And no matter how much Helmick protested that she, an amateur, had snapped the shots of her son, she said the clerk wouldn't budge.

According to the article, in 2000, Kmart settled a case involving allegations that they violated federal copyright laws by copying images without the copyright holder's permission. Other photofinishing labs took note of the $100,000 settlement and enacted similar policies against printing "professional-looking" images out of a fear that similar suits could be brought against them.

Wal-Mart has the strictest policy. Their spokesperson said, "We will not copy a photograph if it appears to be taken by a professional photographer or studio."

Given that more and more consumers are purchasing high quality digital cameras and related equipment, it is likely that this issue will only take on heightened importance in time... Surely there must be room for both consumer and professional rights.

June 8, 2005 12:16 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Does Walmart have a written policy? Can you get a copy of it and repost it here?

If the photo labs don't have an explicit policy about what constitutes a "professional photo", couldn't someone say that they were discriminated against?

Posted by: Womble at June 8, 2005 01:02 AM
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