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June 07, 2005
Do Copyrighted Wedding Photos Even Make Sense?
Below, I wondered why it makes sense to hold 3rd party copy centers liable for the copyright violations of their customers (Does It Make Sense to Hold WalMart Responsible for Reproducing Photos its Customers Want Copied?). The particular issue is whether photofinishing labs should be held liable when someone brings in that Olan Mills family protrait to be copied. Mnemonic Technology writes about this and accuses people who try to make copies of ripping off the photographers (Wal-Mart Refusing to Print Suspect Professional Photos).
Im familiar with the business that larger print shops( Wal Mart, Walgreens ) and smaller print shops experience. There are a lot of unscrupulous types that will try using the do-it-yourself kiosks to make copies of their Olan Mills photos with the gold watermark half scratched off. People do attempt to cheat professional photographers when they ask labs to copy photos done on Kodak professional paper when they cant produce the negatives. ...Unfortunately there are still countless amounts of negatives of beloved memories
which professionals own the rights to, and there are individuals who try to take advantage of the professionals and the labs by making, what is essentially a facsimile of a facsimile.
This got me thinking ... why the heck is it illegal for you to make copies of the photos of your own wedding in the first place? I'm a big fan of personal use copying being perfectly legal. If you can rip a CD to an MP3 so that it is more convenient to listen to, why can't you make a copy of your own baby pictures for personal use?
Does copyright even really make sense in these cases? The purpose of copyright is to spur creation and distribution of new works. Is anyone seriously going to argue that without copyright there would be no wedding photos industry? Or strip mall portrait shops? Heck, the point of most of these photos isn't that they'll be distributed at all, but that they'll be stored by the family for personal use. That doesn't really seem to be the point of copyright.
Making personal use copies of family photos shouldn't be illegal. Period.
I understand that photographers built their business model on the fact that it was difficult to make copies of photographs without access to the negative, but technology frequently forces business models to change. It's time for a change.
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