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by Russell McMahon

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I generally don't like legal questions, however in this case my choice is either to accept an agreement or move on to a different print service, and I'll gladly do the latter if necessary. I was reading the EzPrints.com Terms of Use, and I'm a little confused about part of their terms. I hope I'm just being dumb, and its just a matter of understanding. The part I am confused about is Point B:

PHOTOGRAPHS AND PRODUCTS

A.

You can purchase the photographs featured on our Web site from ezprints in the form of photographic prints, or other photographic products such as picture frames or photo- albums (collectively, the "Products"). You acknowledge that all Products are custom made to your order and have no market beyond your purchase thereof. As such, all Products are non-returnable and payment for all Products is required to be made in full in advance. All items purchased through ezprints and shipped to you are subject to a shipment contract under which the risk of loss and title for such items pass to you upon our delivery to our shipping carrier.

B.

You may not reproduce, display, transmit, distribute or otherwise exploit the Products, or any portion thereof, in any manner, including, without limitation, print or electronic reproduction, publication or any display of photographs, without the prior written consent of ezprints. While you can add captions and descriptions to the photographs in your account in accordance with the terms hereof, you agree not to otherwise modify, alter or otherwise manipulate any Product, including without limitation, adding other material to a Product, without ezprints's prior written consent.

C.

...

To me, Point B sounds like EzPrint is telling me I can't modify, reproduce, transmit, distribute, or otherwise exploit my own works if they are printed through them. That sounds rather ludicrous, as there is no way in hell I am giving up my right to rework, print, distribute, and sell my own property simply because I printed it through EZPrints. I am also not going to limit what I do or who I sell to with any print I farm out, however given the wording of this agreement, it sounds like EZPrint is trying to say just that.

What am I misunderstanding here?

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1  
My recollection is that EzPrints has a good reputation, though I could of course be wrong. I'm surprised that they would be attempting a copyright grab or even want to be appearing to do so. I'd suggest contacting them directly and asking WTF. –  Reid Oct 10 '10 at 21:18
    
@Reid: That was my understanding, that EzPrints had a good reputation. In my experience, though, it is often those that have the best "rep" that also think they have a chance of pulling a fast one. I have become a hard-core reader of license and terms of use agreements these days, as you never know what someone may try to pull. :\ –  jrista Oct 10 '10 at 22:09
    
(Previous comment deleted and folded into answer.) –  Reid Oct 11 '10 at 3:35
    
@jrista: I hear you on the fast ones, but keep in mind that not all institutions with a good reputation will try to do that. It sounds like you are saying that one should be more suspicious of institutions with a good reputation than a bad one, which doesn't seem right to me. –  Reid Oct 11 '10 at 3:38
    
@Reid: I agree, it doesn't sound right, but think about how many times reputable companies have tried to pull a fast one on us, or used crappy legal means to make money when their business tactics fail to meet changing markets. To pick some from the tech and entertainment industries: Microsoft, Google, Apple, RIAA, MPAA, etc. Legal documents can be a blessing and a curse, sometimes simultaneously, and I've learned the hard way to be massively suspicious of any legal document. Just compare BigPhotoHelp's policies with EzPrints: www3.bigphotohelp.com/policiesapt.htm –  jrista Oct 11 '10 at 4:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think that there is not a problem here and it is not a copyright grab. Why? Two reasons:

First, see the first sentence in Part 2a:

You can purchase the photographs featured on our Web site from ezprints in the form of photographic prints, or other photographic products such as picture frames or photo- albums (collectively, the "Products"). [emphasis added]

My reading is that "Products" refers only to value-added stuff created by EzPrints: silly photo frames, mugs, calendars, etc., not your photographs themselves.

Second, reading Part 2b as a copyright grab is highly inconsistent with Part 3 ("Your Copyrights").

Thus, I agree with Alan. IMO, image theft is not a concern here and you should evaluate EzPrints on other criteria.

Other random thoughts (converted from question comments):

My recollection is that EzPrints has a good reputation, though I could of course be wrong. I'm surprised that they would be attempting a copyright grab or even want to be appearing to do so. I would suggest contacting them directly with your concerns.

Given this good reputation, IMO it is fair to give EzPrints an opportunity to weigh in before condemning them. While one explanation for terms that are an apparent copyright grab (and I emphasize that on a second, more careful reading I don't believe it is that, but I can see how it could be interpreted that way) is malice and/or greed, another is simple error. Maybe they have a new lawyer, or whoever was in charge of vetting the terms was having a bad day, or they just had some calendar designs stolen, or something like that.

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I think you've figured it out. I guess I misunderstood Part 2a at first, thinking it was referring to my own work. The term "Products" makes a lot more sense now. Thanks for the analysis! And a big "Whoop", "Holler" and "YAY!" for crappy legal speak. >.> Lawyers...meh. –  jrista Oct 11 '10 at 3:40

I've been using ezprints since 2003, and Smugmug (one of the most photographer friendly and trusted services around) also recommends and uses them.

They are a good company, and I 100% recommend them. I think their legalese is not as clear as it could be, and in some cases, pretty stupid (like you can't make a link to ezprints??!?) but here is how I interpreted their ToU:

Point A

Point A says that because their products are tailored specifically to you, they have no value to anyone else, therefore you must pay for them upfront, and you cannot return them for a refund (unless I assume they are faulty). It doesn't say you cannot resell prints you have made--just that if you do make a print of your grandma jo, the only person who would want that (in theory) is you, so they won't take it back. Think of it like getting monogramed handtowels with "JRISTA." Now myself, I wouldn't mind owning a set, but really, the market for that is way too small, so they couldn't resell them if you returned them. So if you have custom prints made, you are stuck with them (unless they screw them up).

With regards to resale, Smugmugs uses Ezprints as one of their print-sale vendors, so there is no way that Ezprints prohibits the resale of prints made with Ezprints.

Point B

Point B is a bit more confusing, but what they are saying is that when you use their services, you can't yourself use some backdoor hacks to modify the images that they host. Like, have Ezprints host the image, but you write yourown software that sits ontop of it, and attempts to modify the image. Like create a site called JristaPrints.com, that secretly uploads files to ezprints. They're not saying you can't modify your own works. You just can't upload your picture to their site, then try to modify it there (except with their own tools). Also this section says that, if you have them print a calender of your photos, you can't then take that calender, scan it yourself, and make copies of the calender. Or have a mug made, then have your Indian sweatshop (i know you have one), mass produce them for resale.

Regarding copyrights and ownership, I think you missed the most important section:

YOUR COPYRIGHTS

Ezprints respects the copyrights, real and implied, of photographers, artists and/or other copyright holders. ezprints will not knowingly print and/or distribute images without the consent of the creator or owner of the copyrights. The copyrights in the photographs are owned by the photographers thereof who have licensed to ezprints the right to post them on the Web site and provide the Services offered. ezprints makes no claim of ownership to any images uploaded to our servers by our customers. Since we cannot research every image transmitted to us or printed by us, it is your sole responsibility to ensure that you have the necessary authorizations and/or permissions to use the images. If you believe your copyright in a work has been violated through this service, please contact ezprints for notice of claims of copyright infringement at support -at- certifiedcustomercare -dot- com, or at ezprints, Inc., 1890 Beaver Ridge Circle, Suite A, Norcross Georgia, 30071,

Which says, you (the photographer) own the copyright, and the only license you grant, is for ezprints to host your image, and to provide services that you yourself authorize. Everything else is left to you.

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Thanks for the analysis. Between you and Reid, things make sense now. Given the confusion of their Terms of Use, and the fact that from a legal (rather than layman) standpoint, their terms are very vague and can likely be misinterpreted, I've decided to use another service: BigPhotoHelp (www3.bigphotohelp.com/index.htm). They seem to take any image of any size, and print in any size, on archival paper with pigment inks, for REALLY good prices. No funky legal business either, which pleases me greatly. ;) I ordered two 9.5"x31" panoramic prints on fine art w/ shipping from them for $18! –  jrista Oct 11 '10 at 0:48
2  
+1 for accusing @jrista of running a 3rd-world sweatshop. :) –  Reid Oct 11 '10 at 3:14
    
LOL, I missed the sweatshop comment. :D +1 –  jrista Oct 11 '10 at 3:39

Sounds fishy to me. The key to the mystery is in their definition of "product". If you order prints of your files, and they deliver said prints, are you not allowed to resell them?

From A:

"You can purchase the photographs featured on our Web site from ezprints in the form of photographic prints, or other photographic products such as picture frames or photo- albums (collectively, the "Products")." Sounds like they don't want you to alter what you buy, or resell it. I don't like that. Sounds like a copyright grab to me. But they also say "photographs featured," so this may be in reference to homepage imagery they've collected usage from the photog. Still vague though. I never post on a web site that makes a claim on my creative license! Slippery slope for the entire industry. These companies should be boycott.

If you're looking for a good print house (in Denver) check out...http://reedphoto.com/. They've been in the biz for years, and for good reason. They've also just released a new online print service, like collages.com, called http://digitaleventsonline.com/. I'm currently looking into this service as an addition to my website. But the best part is THEY DON'T MAKE COPYRIGHT GRABS!!!

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You've got it exactly. Given their definition of 'Product' in A, it makes B sound like a blatant copyright grab. Thanks for the link to ReedPhoto...I've been searching for local Denver print shots all day, and this one looks like a good one. (Most seem to be your run of the mill family photo print place, rather than a professional print shop.) –  jrista Oct 10 '10 at 20:38

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