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Defunct site puts a price on photos

PhotoPoint.com says customers who want their photos returned to them can have their accounts burned to a CD for about $25--drawing harsh criticism from some members.

An online photo site that shut down without notice two months ago has come up with a blueprint to reunite former customers with their pictures.

A message posted Sunday on PhotoPoint.com notified customers that it is making arrangements to have photos burned onto a CD. Customers who want their photos returned to them, however, will have to pay a fee of $24.95 plus shipping and c.o.d. charges.

The plan drew a mixed response from former customers of PhotoPoint, whose estimated 1.2 million members included some who had paid the company a $25 annual subscription fee just weeks before the closure.

"I went from a state of shock to absolute anger after reading what PhotoPoint suggested to do in order to return pictures to their former members," Jim Estrada, a former PhotoPoint member, wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "The thought of even attempting to place a charge of any amount to get our pictures back is ludicrous."

While the recent notice drew harsh criticism from some former customers, however, others were relieved to be able to have their photos returned. Many members said they had posted original photos on the site and did not make backups of the files.

"I really do not care about the money," Chris Maher, another former PhotoPoint member, said in an e-mail. "The money is an odd lot compared to the value of the photos. Although I feel PhotoPoint-Pantellic Software could have handled it differently, people need to realize bankruptcies happen, especially in the environment we are in now...They should be happy to get their photos back."

The notice comes shortly after the Web site posted a survey asking former members whether they would be willing to pay the fee to get their pictures back, among other options. PhotoPoint's parent Pantellic Software closed shop two months ago, leaving some 1.25 million customers wondering about the fate of their photos.

In a recent e-mail to CNET News.com, Pantellic President Dale Gass said the CD-burning service would be outsourced because the company no longer has any employees, assets or revenue. He said that all of the equipment to run the site was returned to the vendors from which they were leased and that the company has no funds to retrieve the hardware.

"Pantellic is not trying to 'double bill' people," Gass said. "It is disappointing the number of people that immediately assume we were rip-off artists...In a world where people are 10 times more likely to yell and complain, it is good to see some people be more civil and constructive. It is for these people that I'm working hard to find a solution."

Pantellic said it tried to keep the PhotoPoint site running, but because of bandwidth costs and the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the business was forced to close up shop. Pantellic's networking equipment was seized on the day the company went dark.