SignOnSanDiego.com reports that many photofinishing labs are increasingly reluctant to reproduce "professional-looking" photos for fear of copyright infringement liability (Snap Judgments).
There are a growing number of stories of amateur photographers being turned away by photofinishers for having photos that looked, at least in the eyes of a store clerk, too good to have been taken by anyone other than a professional.
Their photos have become collateral damage in the war on digital copyright infringement.
The problem is that photocopy centers, photofinishing labs and other 3rd party copying centers have been sued and intimidated into compliance with the wants of the copyright cartels. While such centers should certainly be held liable when they are part of the decision as to what to copy, or get permission for, I've never understood why they should be held liable for simply copying what someone brings them.
Though it is certainly convenient for the copyright holders to sue such centralized centers, the result is entirely predictable that these centers will overprotect.
First, these centers have neither the expertise nor the incentive to limit protection. Seriously, does it really make sense to train minimum-wage employees to engage in a complicated four-part analysis of fair use, or the myriad other details of copyright law? The rules are going to be simplified. Moreover, because of the potential liability, bright-line rules will inevitably be drawn well away from what copyright law permits. Certainly these centers have no incentive to vigorously defend the rights of those who use them; they're essentially engaged in commodity copying.
What this article recounts is simply the expected outcome of our current copyright system.
Does this make any sense when personal reproduction technology is so readily available?
There are other solutions. For example, photographers can change their business model.
Some professional photographers have even changed the way they charge for their work.
"There's been quite a bit of change in the business model over the last 10 years," Hopper said.
Photographers used to take photos and then charge clients for copies of the images, he said. Now, more and more professional photographers are charging for their time spent taking the photos.
Imagine that. Imagine people being able to readily make copies of their wedding photos twenty years down the road without having to locate the photographer for permission. Imagine studio photos of children that can be freely reproduced long before the child has reached adulthood, grown old and died. Imagine walking into a WalMart and not being treated as a putative thief.