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Kodak launches Picture Network

Eastman Kodak was founded in 1888 on the motto that says "you push the button, we do the rest." Now, the camera maker is pitching the same message to Web surfers and online publishers.

Eastman Kodak (EK) was founded in 1888 on the motto that says "you push the button, we do the rest." Now, the camera maker is pitching the same message to Web surfers and online publishers.

A subscription service called Kodak Picture Network launched today, allowing people to retrieve photos from the Web a few weeks after turning their film in at the corner drugstore.

It costs $4.95 per month to store up to 100 photos on a Picture Network server, which asks members for a username and password in order to access prints from their "personal studio." Members can download, email, or create digital picture postcards.

In order to use the service, members must take their film to one of the 30,000 Kodak processing locations, which also take orders for the Picture Network. When members pick up their regular prints, they are given a claim number to access their photos on the Net.

"The Kodak Picture Network will give consumers a new way to access, share, and store their pictures--one that is faster, more efficient, and permits sharing over distance more easily than the existing method of selecting extra pictures from a double set of prints and mailing them," said Willy Shih, vice president of Kodak.

Kodak's product is being targeted at consumers who are increasingly getting online and venturing into Web publishing. But some in the digital photo business say the product will more likely gain popularity with small service and retail businesses.

"It always turns out that the market that uses these things are businesses," said Tom Seal, president of DigiMatrix, which offers a range of digital photo services from scanning hard copies to CD-ROM archiving. "The same thing happened with the Kodak Photo CD.. "A lot of artists, and graphic design houses will probably began using [Picture Network]," he added. "If a business is doing more of its catalogs in-house, or a realtor, for example, is featuring pictures of houses on a Web page, then it's a good way for them to get their photos in a digital form for cheap."

Seal said his Medford, Oregon, company charges more than $4.95 for digitizing up to 100 photos but that his photos are processed at a higher resolution. He noted other companies such as Seattle FilmWorks offer photo prints online for free, but the lack of quality has been a drawback to charging for that service.

"Kodak's resolution is better than most. With its digital resolution you could print a standard 3.5-by-5-inch photo, but an 8-by-10 wouldn't look very good," Seal said. "You would still have to print it smaller than what you're seeing on the screen."

Another possibly problematic area for some consumers is buried in the Picture Network's terms of services (TOS). The policy states: "You may not upload, or permit others to upload, material to the service if that material infringes or violates the rights of others [or if the material] is or may be perceived by Kodak or other likely recipients as defamatory, deceptive, misleading, abusive, profane, offensive, or inappropriate." A consumer could find themselves kicked of the network for violating the TOS.

"I think this brings up a lot of things," said Lori Fena of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Very few people read the TOS. I wouldn't be concerned if these were the same terms of service as in the real world; Kodak has a right to create terms. This isn't a public site so the rules can be quite broad. But they're trying to put all of the online liability on the consumers."

Kodak's policy also is to "cooperate with law enforcement agencies investigating illegal or improper activities relating to the service."

But Fena added the rules may cover more than obviously illegal photos. "They are leaving it open to a lot more than child pornography."