Kodak Gallery Holds Photos Hostage, Then Deletes Them

A lot of people out there on the Interwebs apparently didn’t read our article about Kodak Gallery, and their photos were deleted from Gallery starting two weeks ago if they didn’t either pay up or make a photo print purchase. Many customers were fully aware of the deadline, but since Kodak provided no easy way to export full-size photos from the galleries, they were forced to download thousands of files one. at. a. time.

My favorite comment on the subject came from Twitter user jaztuck:

kodak (ofoto gallery) deleted photos of my life I had for the last 15 years. They win biggest online asshole award.

Matthew Knell found the situation with Kodak unacceptable, and complained about the situation on his blog:

So, Kodak, are you serious? I have 3000 photos and now you’re telling me the only out I have for free is to download them all ONE AT A TIME? This is bush league. I’d be perfectly content to give your storage back and never give you another penny of my money if you gave me a legitimate option. But now I’m left to wonder, is this the example you want to set in a world powered by user-generated content? For a company trying hard to reinvent themselves in the digital age? In an environment where you’re losing market share to newer, nimbler and smarter companies? To be the one to put doubt in customers’ minds about storing things in the “cloud”?

Yeah, what he said. Shutterfly is taking the demise of Kodak Gallery as an opportunity, which is great for them, but an unhappy ending for customers who couldn’t get their pictures out in time and lost them.

Kodak Gallery Improves Its Photo Storage Policies, Becomes A Valid Option Again
Kodak’s Overpriced Photo Site Will Delete Your Photos If You Don’t Spend Money

Shutterfly Aims for Kodak’s Customers [WSJ]
Dear KodakÖ. Stop holding my pictures hostage [Tagsmith]
Kodak risks major PR fail after purge of the free [eConsultancy]

(Photo: pmarkham)


Edit Your Comment

  1. maztec says:

    Folks, get used to it. This will happen to all online photo services eventually. If you want to preserve your digital photographs, store them locally and remotely. Both because locally may burn down and remotely might shut down. If you are really serious about archiving them, you might want to use more than one remote service. However, watch for those terms of use, by using some sites you grant them your copyrights.

    Moral of the story here? Don’t trust online digital storage to store forever.

    • Ronald Riley says:

      @maztec: A more important moral: Don’t truls online digital storage, period.

      Before the advent of digital photography, did people hand over their photo albums to strangers and say “Hold on to this for me, won’t you?”

      If you’re trusting some third party to care as much about your personal photos as you do, you’re an idiot, frankly. Stop being lazy. Edit your collection. Store the good photos locally. Make a back up. Don’t be stupid. The end.

    • Hands says:

      @maztec: This also speaks to why I’ll avoid the cloud for anything. Storage space is cheap and a little diligence means you’re protected. A lot of diligence means you’re REALLY protected.

  2. gaberussell says:

    How do people end up with their photos existing only in an online gallery? Do they upload them and then delete them from their computer?

    • MustyBuckets says:

      @gaberussell: I’d assume something happens to their local copy. Most people using windows reformat their computer by choice or by necessity every 18 months or so. If it didn’t get backed up, or if the backup went bad, this could easily happen.

      • Ragman says:

        @MustyBuckets: You know, I’ve come across people who throw away all the CDs that came with the computer because “it was working fine and I didn’t need them”. Makes me wonder if it’s the same mentality – “My pics are all online so I can delete them off of my computer”.

        They don’t understand. Only the incriminating stuff stays online forever.

        What was scarier was going to the blog and seeing that they were not the only ones who didn’t have any other copies of their pics. Getting pissy over $20 to save all of your pics? Your pics obviously aren’t more important than your outrage.

        • Brian James Schend says:

          @Ragman: Ragman, what you are missing is that online storage services are useless the moment you have any reason to believe that you could log on and your stuff is gone. Kodak is actively broadcasting that their service is worthless because we delete it any time we want.

          Whether storing stuff online is wise is beside the point. Kodak betrayed their customers.

          • Ragman says:

            @Brian James Schend: It is a piss poor move on Kodak’s part, and I won’t bother with Kodak Gallery again as a result. But then, their behavior doesn’t really surprise me. OTOH, it’s not Kodak’s fault that they have customers who don’t seem to be all that bright.

    • maztec says:

      @gaberussell: Yes. I know people that do that. So, yes. Just had this conversation last weekend.

    • Charlotte Rae's Web says:

      @gaberussell: I post them to flickr and then delete them b/c I have tons of photos. Right now i have 18,000 there.

      However every six months, through the wonderful partners with flickr, I print them all in a photo album there and about every year I order them on CD. So worst case, I could lose a few months but not everything.

    • PsiCop says:

      @gaberussell: The short answer is, yes they do. Mostly it’s because of not backing things up locally, then something happens to the computer — either the drive fails, or they need to do a wipe/reinstall, or something else.

      Now, that might sound a little shortsighted, but most folks assume these remote-photo-storage services constitute a backup of their photos, so they don’t bother to have their own local backups.

      Not a good idea, but then, not because the person didn’t take at least some measure to preserve those photos.

      I just restored a bunch of photos for a guy who’d upgraded his hard drive, deleted the data and used the original drive as a secondary in his PC, then discovered to his horror that Kodak was holding his photos for ransom. I managed to get nearly all of them back (they hadn’t yet been overwritten).

      For the record, I used Kodak Gallery but because I’d bought things (namely a couple of mugs with my photos on them) I wasn’t subject to deletion. But knowing their policy, I’ve decided NOT to buy from them again and will be using a different service, as soon as I can find the time to re-upload the photos somewhere else.

  3. Ragman says:

    Did these people upload their photos then delete them off of all LOCAL media? Does the word “backup” mean anything?

    • maztec says:

      @Ragman: Yes. No.

      • krista says:

        @maztec: I’ve seen many a person freak out because hey were locked out of their MySpace account, and all their pictures were saved there.

        Seriously? MySpace? Take good pictures from your camera, degrade them to less than web resolution, put them in the hands of a company known for randomly deleting images and profiles, and that’s the only place you have all the pictures of your baby???

        Having them uploaded to a site like Kodak or Shutterfly is good as a secondary backup, but for goodness sake people, back up your photos on CDs. It costs about 10 cents for over 100 images. Less if you can burn to DVD.

    • Charlotte Rae's Web says:

      @Ragman: I no longer backup my photos and usually delete them after I post them to flickr. I have tons of photos – right now I have 18,000 there.

      However every six months, through the wonderful partners with flickr, I print them all in a photo album there and about every year I order them on CD. So worst case, I could lose a few months but not everything.

      • AI says:

        @Charlotte Rae’s Web: Storage is cheap. You can now store millions of pictures on a $75 hard drive. There’s no reason to not have a backup of important pictures. Hell, there’s no reason to not have many backups, as you can burn thousands of pictures to a DVD as well.

      • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

        @Charlotte Rae’s Web:

        I have over 40,000 pictures. They’re stored on two separate hard drives in my home (automatically synced), and a third copy is kept on a hard drive in another location. That’s a safe way to backup your stuff.

        FYI, you may find that when you need to use those CDs, they’re useless. CD-Rs degrade over time and eventually become useless. DVD-Rs are even worse. Don’t rely on writable optical media for backups. With hard drives as large as they are now, there’s no reason NOT to keep a copy of everything locally.

      • Ragman says:

        @Charlotte Rae’s Web: Your statement is incorrect. You still backup your photos via archive CDs. :-)

      • krista says:

        @Charlotte Rae’s Web: Why pay flickr to burn them to CD when you can do it yourself for pennies?

  4. stuny says:

    Amusingly, I only had a handful of photos on Kodak but stopped using them ages ago because their site was annoying and poorly featured.

    I recognize that companies have to be lean and watch costs in difficult times, and spending money supporting millions of non-revenue generating users may seem like an ideal place to cut back. But in an age where Picasa and Flickr are expanding their functionality and free storage capacity, this is not the way to win hearts and minds and marketshare.

    In 2001, I worked for a pioneering company that designed an online photo service with integrated social networking and ecommerce capabilities and begged, -begged- Kodak to partner with us. They were still convinced that digital was no threat to their film business. Oh well.

    No problems Kodak, I have my original photos safely stored and backed up, and am happily sharing them via Picasa. No need to return to your rotary phone-caliber gallery.

  5. Madge Gristle says:

    I didn’t know people still used Kodak? My mom bought one of their camera’s and the fact that I am forced to use their craptacular software just to download pictures off a camera seems insane.

    Or is this having regular film put on their storage?

    • Sam Wille says:

      @Madge Gristle: I have a Kodak Easyshare that I got off of w00t last year. While more megapixels mean nothing, I couldn’t resist picking up an easy point ‘n shoot for under $80, especially when it mean I could unload a much cheaper by comparison digital camera I bought at Wal-Mart.

      The photo quality is great. I don’t worry about using their software to pull the photos off the camera, I just plug the camera in directly to my PC and Ubuntu pulls the photos out rather quickly. I still want to by a card reader, though, since it will be much faster in the long run.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Sam Wille:

        I do this too. But my photos stay on my computer and then go to my backup hard drive (eventually).

        I love that little camera. It’s my very first digital camera.

        And that kitteh in the picture looks like my kitteh, except it has longer hair! :)

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Madge Gristle: Kodak Gallery’s been easy for all my relatives to use to pull off and have printed (and mailed) pictures of the baby. Gives my relatives of varying technical abilities the chance to get the pics digitally or in hardcopy, and it’s pretty easy to use.

      But then, I only have 32 selected pictures up there.

  6. kepler11 says:

    Kodak is not backed by a >$100B company that can throw its weight behind free services left and right in hopes of linked advertising revenue. Picasa (Google) and Flickr (Yahoo) are.

    The safe thing is to assume responsibility for your own files, and backing them up.

    They did give plenty of warning, though. I’ve been getting the notices of file deletion for several weeks.

  7. Loren Fisher says:

    Matthew Knell is not your typical user of the Kodak service. He is a photo blogger. The average Joe has only 20 photos in their album. The average Joe only logs on to even look at their photos once per year.

    But Matthew Knell is a smart cookie. He can use free web automation software, such as the Firefox iMacros add-on, to automate the process of downloading all 3,000 of his images, so that he doesn’t have to whine and complain that his service, which cost him all of $0, was not designed with an easy way to download all 3,000 of his images to his computer in a single .zip file. /sarcasm ON Because, you know, it makes SOOOOOO much business sense for Kodak to make it easy for their users to switch to another online photo storage provider. /sarcasm OFF

    • maztec says:

      @Loren Fisher: And really, if he was using it for the legitimate purpose they intend, he would easily have the few required photos purchased to continue his service.

  8. USBman says:

    Regarding the download the images one-at-a-time, I may have a solution (for those unfortunate enough to find themselves in need of one).

    While I have not looked at the Kodak gallery in question (or how its structured), you may want to look at DownThemAll. It’s a firefox addon that allows you to manage your downloads with greater ease, including the ability to download specificied filetyples in bulknot one at a time!

  9. ryaninc says:

    I used Kodak gallery for three or four pictures about a year ago. Yet they STILL managed to not only find my email address, but send me LOTS of emails warning me that my pictures were about to be deleted. I find it very hard to believe that people were unaware of the shutdown. Kodak’s forcing to download 1 at a time is still unacceptable, but still.

  10. krunk4ever says:

    I’m surprised no one’s written a tool to spider the pages and automatically download all the pictures.

    • krunk4ever says:

      @krunk4ever: Along those lines, if I was Shutterfly or any other online photo company, I’d give users the option to provide them with their Kodak login (of course changing your password first) and have them transfer all the photos over (along with descriptions and so on) for you into their gallery.

  11. starrion says:

    Hey look! An opportunity to throw rocks at both the OP and the Corporation because they’re BOTH BEING STUPID IN THE DAYLIGHT!

    Kodak wins the WTF award for bad PR move. They offered storage space for things that people think they treasure only when it’s lost. Apparently whoever handles IT and Legal at Kodak failed to talk to marketing.

    User is an idiot. My wife has argued against using cloud-based user storage because once it’s off-property it is out of your control. If the OP is depending on someone else to care about your property as much as you do, then you are being stupid.

  12. Matthew Pettengill says:

    Look, I feel for the folks who lost all their pictures. They are important images from their lives.

    But frankly, this is a hard lesson that most computer users need to learn; backup, backup, backup.

    Have at least 2 and ideally 3 or more copies of your data in independent locations. For example, I keep what I consider my critical files (photography, documents, music collection) on my primary home computer, on an old computer that’s also at my apartment, and on an external drive that I transfer back-and-forth from work where I store it. I sync the external drive with my primary computer every couple weeks using microsoft sync toy (free download).

    I also upload all the JPGs of my photographs to flickr as I have unlimited uploads with my pro account.

    It’s not completely idiot-proof, but it gets me covered for the vast majority of possible scenarios where I could loose my date

  13. silver-spork says:

    Since I have two electronic copies of all my photos and additional hard copies of the ones I care about, I let Kodak delete my albums.

    It was a dumb move on their part though. Instead of getting $5-10/year from me, since I did order prints from time to time, they will be getting $0 and bad word-of-mouth.

  14. tundey says:

    Kodak has always had the policy of deleting pictures if you don’t buy each year. So what’s the brouhaha about? I got SEVERAL email from Kodak about their intent to delete my pictures. I doubt that people didn’t get enough warning. Also, Kodak is not an online storage solution for pictures. It’s a place you upload your pictures so you can purchase prints. It’s like Costco, Walmart and CVS. It’s not flickr, it’s not picasaweb.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @tundey: Yes, actually, the Kodak Gallery in addition to having the printing service allowed you to share you photos either with selected friends or have them open to anyone. You’re not wrong about the amount of notice Kodak provided, so I still think this is not Kodak’s fault. Don’t rely on flickr and picasaweb as your only storage for your photos either.

  15. Anonymous says:

    You can download ALL of your hi-res images from Kodak easily – and not one at a time. Open up the EasyShare software on your PC. (Don’t go to the web site – open EasyShare on your PC.) Let EasyShare connect to your Gallery account. You will see all of your Gallery photos in EasyShare. Select them all and right click on the bunch, and do a “save-as”.

    I downloaded 1,500 photos that way . .. . Easy . .. .

  16. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree with the majority here. Kodak never said they were offering unlimited free file hosting. They send out periodic ad-mail encouraging you to buy prints. They distributed information warning that the free ride was coming to an end. They are hardly the devil.

    All of that aside, what kind of idiot hosts thousands of personal images on an online service without local backup?

    Get a SugarSync account, or a Flickr account. Use a back up drive. Burn DVDs. If the images/files are so important, let common sense creep into your life.

  17. EdnaLegume says:

    lol this is funny. I have my pics in like 5 different areas. and I don’t have ALL my pics on any online storage. but when I do upload one or two .. I could care less what happens to them. My pics are very important and I’d be devastated if anything happened to them. I guess to some, their pics are only thought of right before they’re deleted.

  18. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    If you aren’t going to backup your stuff, you need to go to flickr or somewhere that makes it easy to keep your photos.

    Personally I no longer backup my photos and usually delete them after I post them to flickr. I have tons of photos in very big sizes – right now I have 18,000 there. I got tired of backing them up.

    However every six months, through the wonderful partners with flickr, I print them all in a photo album there and about every year I order them on CD. So worst case, I could lose a few months but not everything. A CD could fall but I have the photo album worst case as well.

    Click and drag, it’s very simple people.

  19. chenry says:

    Back up your stuff, folks.

  20. Joyce Godsey says:

    who in the hell puts stuff online without keeping a copy for themselves? if you’re that stupid, you deserve to lose them. backups to an external drive.

    • almightytora says:

      @Joyce Godsey: Exactly! Online photo sharing is just that: SHARING. I know the photos I *had* there were non-important pictures and I didn’t care if they deleted them.

      Shame on anyone who uses online photo sharing sites as a *permanent* storage site.

  21. rick_in_texas says:

    Shutterfly also SUCKS. Why? I lady who takes pictures for our daughter’s band put all her pictures up there. I need them for a BAND DVD (as Historian). She deleted them off her local system and I could only get them off Shutterfly…ONE AT A FREAKING TIME. They have no BATCH system. For that I recommend Picasa from Google they do have a batch mechanism.

    No BATCH = SUCKS. It took me 8 hours to download 28 Band event pictures!!!

  22. econobiker says:

    I bailed on Kodak after they bought Ofoto which was what Kodak Photo Gallery was before.

    Now- does anyone know how to get rid of a WebShots account? I deleted all my photos and tried to delete my account but there is not any way to do that nor one contact email for the “free users” to contact their administration. I even posted some classic xxx web shock photos which just got notices of inappropriate content removal but no cancellation. Right now WebShots has been hosting copyrighted Walt Disney Corporation artwork on my account with no account mis-use issues at all for about a year.

    • dave_coder says:

      @econobiker: Well I’m sure they lower the customer service for people who pay nothing. Why not just get rid of you photos, change any personal information and then just ignore the account?

      • econobiker says:

        @dave_coder: All that is completed but surprisingly I am still getting updates about my account and their service. I cannot change the email address it seems.

        Sure I am dumping the emails into the spam catch but the point was how to get them to delete an account. Goatse and Tubgirl pics didn’t do it so I don’t know what will. Maybe posting propritary Microsoft code would…

        Point is that webshots is a very garbage service if you cannot delete your account.

  23. Kaessa says:

    And this is why backups are a good thing.

  24. all4jcvette says:

    I’ve been an IT security professional and administrator for about 18 years. If you want to ensure that your digital files are safe, always keep them locally, and backup them up. Personally all of my drives are in a RAID array, and I back them up twice a week to USB drive. Never, ever trust a company or any online service as the sole storage, and remember, regardless of the terms of service, a company can change them anytime the want, and then data mine your information.

  25. jdmba says:

    Really? People actually put their only copy of a photograph in the hands of an online commercial entity? This all strikes me as more darwinian than anything else.

    • econobiker says:

      @jdmba: It’s the people just a little smarter than those who save multiples of the same names pictures all dumped in the My Photos folder…

  26. barb95 says:

    I paid the money to keep the pics for at least another year. I had to order some prints so it wasn’t a big deal. That said, I keep my pics in three different places, the Kodak site, an external drive and on CD. I’m actually going through all the pics right now and saving them AGAIN on CD by year and month so I can have all pics organized. Its a hassle, but I don’t want to lose 10 years worth of pictures because I was too lazy.

  27. sponica says:

    i sort of miss having film negatives stashed away…and perhaps this is the reason why.

  28. BytheSea says:

    Geocities did the same thing. Yahoo is shutting it down. I’ve been using it as backup file storage for when I want to show people pictures for years. There’s NO file download interface. You have to click on each file so it opens in a webpage and right click to save.

  29. trujunglist says:


    We’ve been through this before and we never seem to learn…

  30. jen_x says:

    How timely. I just had a fantastic experience with Shutterfly. My photos were ruined during delivery in the postal system and they resent the order for no charge. I wasn’t even asking for them to resend it, just expressing my concern about the packaging. Wonderfully quick response to my email as well. They have been a wonderful service for several years. I had all my wedding photos printed by them. I’ve never been able to recommend them enough.

  31. edjusted says:

    I found a web site called multiply.com that allows importing from Kodakgallery. IT STILL WORKS!

    That’s the part that really pisses me off. I just logged in to Kodakgallery to see if my photos were deleted. Yep, my albums were empty…BUT, I noticed on the bottom of the screen that I could see some comments left by my friends on my now-deleted albums. Curious, I clicked on them…and…I could STILL access those albums! So those bastards didn’t actually delete my photos! At least not all of them! They just deleted the “albums.”

    (I have no relations to multipy.com. I just discovered them recently when trying to figure out how to move my Kodakgallery photos. They seem a bit buggy but not bad.)

  32. thecommonconsumer says:

    For those of you who believe “backing” was the answer for those who lost their memorabilia/photos…installing a fire alarm after your house has had a fire, doesn’t bring back what was lost, just merely gives you “potential” peace of mind going forward.

    For the industry KODAK are in, this act is irresponsible!

    As a public company, they of course have a responsibility to their shareholders, however, they do have profit which comes from the “common consumer” who purchases their product to produce emotional “snapshots” from a moment or moments in time.

    I started using http://www.ofoto.com (which was somehow gobbled up by kodak) which was a free of charge service which allowed me to share photos of my newborn with family members all across the country, including the grandparents.

    My wife took over the photo uploading and sharing several years ago, and since I was not the person making the purchases on “my account”, the photos of my children going back to 2001 were DELETED from BOTH ACCOUNTS.

    Kodak may as well have thrown all of the photos in a pile, poured gasoline over the top and lit a match to start the flame.

    Today, I have been sent to voice mails twice and have now been on hold long enough register for this site and write this message -2 hours plus (probably a phantom line).

    With all of the space out their on the web, how could they DELETE photos of customers who are clearly going to their site, reading their advertisement and sharing their photos with an exponential number of friends and family either from the KODAK site or with “KODAK” on the backs of the photos?