A Kodak moment will now cost you at least $4.99

I have a friend who takes a prolific amount of digital photos on every vacation, then sends her friends a link to KodakGallery.com, where her photo album is stored. She just got back from Australia and kindly sent me a link to her latest album -- a total of 382 photos, totally uncategorized. Gee thanks, but do I really need to scroll through the slideshow of 10 photos of Sydney's train station alone and 20 photos of her and her boyfriend snuggling on the snorkeling boat? (I never even made it to the second half of her trip).

However, after I clicked off her album, Kodak Gallery sent me an e-mail titled 'Our storage policy has changed.' Now, members with photo storage of up to 2 gigabytes or more must make annual purchases of at least $5, and those with photos totaling more than 2 GB worth must buy at least $20 of annual minimum purchases. Kodak told me I was 'currently compliant with our new policy,' (because I don't have any photos there) but customers who signed up before the crackdown don't get a free pass. I hope my friend has backed up her photos because, according to the Associated Press, Kodak will delete freeloaders' photo albums on May 16 if they don't pay up.
Kodak Gallery, formerly known as Ofoto, told AP it wants to focus on its best (i.e., paying) customers, not folks who just want free picture storage. For now, it is one of the few charging a fee. (AOL ended its photo-storage site earlier this year and transferred images to American Greetings Corp.'s PhotoWorks, which also has a pay-an-annual-fee-or-we'll-delete-your-photos policy). Other photo sites like Google's Picasa and Yahoo's Flickr still offer free uploads, albeit with storage limits, but don't be surprised if they follow in Kodak Gallery's footsteps as more companies these days realize 'free content' isn't earning them any money.

So it's best to back up your photos on your own computer instead of just keeping them all on some company's web site. Also, ask friends and families to send their JPEGs to you directly instead of swapping them on a third-party web site. The AP story profiled Vanessa Daniele, who has multiple albums on Kodak Gallery, many with photos taken by friends and family who uploaded them to the site directly. She doesn't have those copies stored so those images will be deleted even if she makes the new required minimum purchase. To hold on to those photos, she'll either have to pay a $25 annual subscription to download high-resolution versions of the images, or pay $20 plus shipping to get a 200-picture CD from Kodak Gallery and upload them somewhere else. Makes looking at those family vacation photos a little less pleasing, doesn't it?
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