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Monday, October 03, 2005

BobF at 7:18 PM [url]:

Kodak vs the Internet — Who Owns You?

Update: At the recent Consumer Electronics Show I learned that Kodak is now offering a premium account which does allow downloading full resolution images. I don't know when the started offering that service but it's a strong step in the right direction

The idea of a "Wi-Fi" camera seems exciting but in trying to understand it I found that it comes with a big boat anchor -- the photos are uploaded to Kodak's site. But you don't really own the pictures. If you ask they will sell your photos to you and deliver them to you on a CD (no downloads!) which contains your entire collection of pictures! According to their site you can't even specify which photos -- you have to pay according to how many photos are in your account!

Since the site and rules may change there's what KodakGallery (formerly Ofoto) currently says

When you order an Archive CD, your entire photo collection will be preserved on CD. Photos are saved as full-sized JPEGs in their original resolution.

Archive CDs are priced according to the total number of photos in your account.

1-50 photos$9.95
51-100 photos$14.95
101-250 photos$19.95
251-500 photos$29.95
501-1000 photos$39.95
Each additional 1,000$14.95

While the idea of having your photos automatically moved from your camera to the Internet sounds wonderful, you lose ownership of your own pictures. Or maybe you shouldn't think of them as yours -- they effectively belong to Kodak and you get only controlled access. As much as Kodak seems to want to leave their silver-halide heritage behind they seem to be stuck in the old business model of making money when you process the picture, when you print the picture and whenever you want to print it again. It's another example of how hard it is for a company to change its basic nature.

This is part of the larger trend that is fighting to keep control. The record industry doesn't want to let you have any control over the bits you buy and Tellywood wants to wrap everything in a very tight DRM straightjacket. These are a business premised on control and they seem unable to change their basic nature. For them it makes a lot of sense to fight the future as long as they can. They have no better option and if they are smart they are taking cash out so when their business evaporates they can retire.

The tragedy is that Congress seems to be playing along because they don't understand the concept of a marketplace. This is a bi-partisan problem. On one side we have a concern about how will the artists get paid (as if any but the few lottery winners really get paid). On the other side we have concern about the incumbent owners and how to preserve their advantage. I shouldn't be too surprised to see those who want to govern be focused on preservation rather than opportunity.

Congress keeps extending copyright forever on the assumption that the way to get innovation is to go to most the moribund companies and ask them to do their magic. Such foolishness! But then they are the ones with the money to invest in lobbyists. We've seen Mickey (AKA, Disney) force Verizon to cooperate and the Supreme Court to buy the notion that innovation should be controlled by the old guard. These are the orifices, each of which gets their turn at controlling what can pass through.j

What is disappointing is the complacency and tolerance for this kind of behavior. Why don't people demand ownership and the opportunity to use products as they choose rather than just as they are allowed? I have yet to see a review of Kodak's EasyShare that warns you that Kodak will let you take the pictures but they keep control and require you pay (and pay and again) to get back your own pictures. They don't really want you to be able to use the photos without paying them a fee each time. How else can you explain the incredible policy that forces you to pay for all your pictures each time you take a picture and want your own copy!!

You can't invest in the future or add value if you don't own anything. Capitalism is about ownership -- ownership isn't simply about owning plots of land. Ownership means you have the opportunity to add value. With DRM systems and with your bits held tightly in Kodak's grip you can only innovate to the extent that it is anticipated, approved and taxed by your service providers. Even if they don't own you, they own everything else and you must seek their approval and demonstrate how they will make money. If you simply want to get a single digital picture so you can use your own software you have to $40 pay for all 501 of you pictures and wait for the CD arrive. A great way to discourage exploration and discover!

We see the same thing whenever strong DRM is used. If you want to use a high end LCD screen to watch a movie, forget it, there is no way to get permission.

We see the same effort on the part of the incumbent phone companies -- it's called IMS (IP Multimedia Systems). It is another attempt to hijack the Internet and create a private version whose virtue is that everything is billable and where innovation is viewed as heresy and theft of service.

If only the incumbent players are allowed to innovate then all you'll get is repackaging and recycling of the old stale boring ideas and no new value allowed.

Don't think of EasyShare as a camera -- think of it as the first trollbooth on Kodak's trollway. Forward into the dark past.

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