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Kodak risks major PR fail after Kodak Gallery purgeKodak has done the unthinkable by alienating vast swathes of long-term customers by deleting pictures stored in the Kodak Picture Gallery.

The Gallery stores ‘billions of photos’ for it’s 75m members, and the costs associated with running this part of its business forced Kodak to change its terms and conditions

It now requires users make at least one ‘annual nominal purchase’, otherwise their pictures will be deleted - unless an annual fee of either $4.99 (for sub-2GB accounts) or $19.99 (for heavier users) will be charged. 

Kodak says it has communicated this via email ‘over a period of months’ (it started to message users almost a year ago), but nevertheless, many users have been shocked by the decision to delete their pictures. Certainly it’s not something that sits well in the Flickr age.

Yes, but doesn’t Kodak allow users to take their pictures with them? Why of course it does! The trouble is, it makes it extremely difficult for users to remove their pictures from the Gallery. Kodak doesn’t allow users to download sets of pictures, and states on its website: “You can only download original high-resolution images, one photo at a time.” Hardcore!

There are other options, of course, although these involve ponying up some money to a company that by now has probably annoyed you to the point of a cat kicking, or worse:

  • Option one: buy an archive CD! One user called Matthew Knell was quoted almost $70 for around 3,000 photos. 
  • Option two: pay the annual storage fee! That will be $19.99 for those 3,000 snaps, thankyouverymuch.

Matthew commented, on a blog posts titled ‘Dear Kodak – stop holding my pictures hostage’: “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?"

On the one hand, you have to admire the outright capitalism involved here. Many companies provide different service levels to different types of customer, with the least profitable actively encouraged to darken a competitor’s door. But on the other hand, is this really the way to deal with 75m customers, many of whom have used this service since the late-1990s (when it was called Ofoto, before Kodak purchased it)? 

Needless to say, Matthew Knell isn’t the only disgruntled customer. He’s collated a few of the things that are being said about Kodak on Twitter:

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

“Kodak Gallery (ofoto) wants $19.99 or its going to erase all of my images. Nice welcome back. Fail.” - @gillee

 “Is Extortion good for customer service? Kodak seems to think so. They have threatened to delete my photos unless I spend some $$$ soon!” - @jrork

“Just paid ransom to keep old digital photos alive in Kodak Gallery after their threat to delete. They really suck now.” - @prmolly

“Amazing in a world that’s approaching free storage that Kodak Gallery is telling me I have to spend $ w them or they’ll delete my photos.” - @jonbischke

This threatens to blow up in Kodak’s face in a big way, if those 75m customers are occasionally active. What we’re seeing now may be the tip of a very large iceberg. And remember that when things go wrong for multichannel, multi-product brands, then it can get really messy.

You might argue that it’s up to users to ensure that emails are received, and to keep on top of T&Cs, but if for whatever reason you missed Kodak’s messaging it will be a major shock to realise that a decade of memories have been erased. That’s a lifetime of brand damage right there… ouch.

Chris Lake

Published 1 June, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

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Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson, Digital Strategy Manager at Sage UK

A painful lesson that you have to back up your content or suffer the whims of any organisation that holds it for you.

Prices can go up, up, up and restrictions can come down, down, down. 

Kodak probably feels it has communicated this thoroughly and must have seen the backlash coming.

How they respond will be the true measure of their customer focus.

almost 8 years ago



Major FAIL. Guess they are hoping the Box Brownie goodwill gets them through or else they had better respond to this sites, and no doubt other sites, feedback.

almost 8 years ago



While I don't agree with Kodak, you can't really fault them, they aren't a hosting company, they are a printing company.  They gave ample notice over the past year.  Who in their right mind wouldn't keep a local copy of their photos?  $19.99 isn't too much money, it's what Flickr charges for anyone that wants to store and upload as many photos as they want.

almost 8 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Dan - I kind of agree with you. It's just that, rightly or wrongly, users are going to feel mighty aggrieved if they log in to find '0 pics' follow a mass deletion. It's a tough one. Users should be responsible for ensure they're kept up to date with t&c changes, but it doesn't always work like that. So I'm betting that a lot of infrequent users are going to get a major shock when they realise what's happened.

Of course 'deleted' doesn't always mean wiped out forever ;  )

If I was Kodak I'd allow users to download sets, for free or for a fee, in order to put this right. If people want out, then let them leave gracefully and without placing barriers in the way. Best not to burn bridges, unless you *really* want to...


almost 8 years ago


Sean McManus

This is the risk you take when you use a free online service. One day, the company that owns it might shut it down. And since they're the ones paying all the bills, they're the only ones who really get a say in that discussion.

Kodak could play nice and make it easier to download batches of photos, although that would probably have a large impact on their bandwidth and further increase costs.

This kind of thing has happened before (mp3.com deleted everything when CNET bought it, for example) but it'll probably happen again and again. People are investing a lot of their IP and memories in Twitter, Facebook and Flickr at the moment, but can't reasonably expect them to operate for free forever.

almost 8 years ago


Brian Chartly

You can download all your albums and all your friends from your kodak gallery to your pc with http://backupgallery.com.

Thanks, Brian


almost 8 years ago



All my old family pics were deleted.  I still have the originals and the scans, but what is now gone forever were the comments from family members who have died.  One of the neat things about using the gallery used to be sending links to your friends and family and reading the comments about each picture.  Well, those comments are gone, and I will ABSOLUTELY NEVER spend another cent on a Kodak product, even if it means paying more for less.  There is no way for Kodak to make up for this, short of restoring the albums.  Even then I'll transcribe every comment myself and close the account.  I would like to see Kodak go under in my lifetime.

almost 8 years ago



Does anyone know if it's possible to get the deleted photos back? I just returned from a long trip with limited email access (Africa) and logged into my account to see that all my albums are gone. At this point, the $4.99 is a non issue, I am just totally shocked to have this happen. What can be done? I'm planning on calling their customer care tomorrow. Thanks in advance for any help/feedback

almost 8 years ago



Logged in a couple of weeks ago to find all of my photos gone! Then, today, I get an email from Kodak inviting me to try its new Beta site -- new and improved, easier to print photos and other items. I wrote to say that's great, but you deleted all my photos so there's nothing to buy!

Got and email back with this startling statement: As a part of the greatest photography company in the world, the KODAK Gallery is the safe, reliable long-term choice for consumers.

My response: Really! Except when you delete your best, long-time customers' photos. How safe and reliable is that? Restore my photos and I won't switch services.

Kodak's response: When images have been deleted for the account, we are not able to restore them, we do not have a back up.

BS... I don't buy it.

almost 8 years ago



After a busy few months, I logged onto Kodak to find that five years worth of my photos (my son's births, weddings, grandparents who have passed away) are gone.  I DID NOT receive an e-mail from the company, despite the fact that I have historically purchased many photos from them.  A friend tells me she receives regular correspondance from Kodak.  I don't recall ever getting an e-mail.  What a short-sighted decision and the communication was very poorly executed.  I am not opposed to paying for the service and would have paid a fortune for those photos.  Now I will spread the word to everyone I know, switch to a new photo sharing service, and Kodak will never see another dime from me (not that I have anything to purchase since my photos are gone).  I have some photos backed up but not all of them.  I can't believe they are not retrievable.

almost 8 years ago



To utter horror, we found out today that all our pictures have been callously deletely by Kodakgallery without any permission.   These pictures are irreplacealbe.   I have requested them to restore them at the earliest and finding out what my other options are.   This is the worst a photo printing company can do to anyone, let alone a long time customer!

almost 8 years ago



Kodak is clueless- I have been getting emails from Kodak Gallery to my main email account for the past year. No mention of the new policy of purchasing to keep my photos from being deleted. In fact. lots of advertising to but for other items and specials. I had even just done some picture reorganizing back in the spring and all my pics were there. Well, it seems that Kodak was sending the "Warning to Purchase" emails to an old email account that I check maybe once or twice a year.  So now its October 1, and I go to check my pictures and wham there is nothing there. This is the first I even heard about the threat of deletions, and of course thousands of my pictures are gone. (I was also an Ofoto member since way back when and have a kodak camera) Thank god I have almost 90 percent of my pics backed up.  But that was hell lgoing through all my things in tears and panic looking for back up discs and through all my files and my portable back up. I mean since I started using Ofoto, I've gone through 3 computers (1 died and 2 new). I am going to call customer service tomorrow and if they are unable to restore, I will never NEVER, NEVER, buy or use a Kodak product again.  It's somehow my fault they are using 2 different email addresses for me... and on top of that they're sending me different messages to each email?  I mean really.  Doesn't seem they tried that hard to get the word out, they should have just not let people log in or not let them be able to access their pictures for at least a years' time before threatening to delete pictures. So frustrating. 

over 7 years ago



Stefanies, just wondering if contacted customer service re: your lost pictures.  I too am in a similar situation and just wondering if it's worth my while to even try to get my pictures back.  Thanks!

over 7 years ago


Bevoir Blythe

I hate Kodak. What A-holes. So who do I use now for online photo projects? I acutally really liked their site and offerring but will NEVER do business with them again. They are stupid and evil.

over 7 years ago



I'm so disgusted...I too, found that all my photographs are gone.  (My computer crashed and was without one for a very long time. ) I thought my pictures were safe...   

Kodak will never get another cent from me.  

over 7 years ago


Alison Kratish

I logged on to my Kodak Gallery account today after not logging on for at least a year.  I recently lost my grandfather AND my beloved dog and logged on to purchase some prints of the two of them that had been stored on the Kodak Gallery site. What I found was an EMPTY account.  All of my albums invisible. Like many of the other stories posted here, all of my memories from the past 9 or 10 years are GONE!!!  I had everything backed up on a computer and/or an external hard drive, but those were stolen in 2008.  I am completely devastated to say the least.  When I created my original Ofoto account, my log in referred to an old AOL email account which I no longer check.  Ironically, I do not use that email addess anymore because AOL deletes emails after 30 days or so.

Of course Kodak Gallery's online customer service chat representative told me the same story many of you have also been told - my pictures are "permanently deleted" with no chance of restoration, even if I now pay the required fee (which I am perfectly willing to do).  There is really no amount of money on the face of the earth that can compensate us for our lost memories, but if anyone is interested in lashing out at Kodak Gallery for their horrible handling of this, I found this class action lawsuit against them online today and am definitely going to join in:  

http://www.careydanis.com/lawyer-attorney-1416090.html   (ask for Casey or Tiffany)

2009 was a horrible year financially for most people I  know.  People who are watching every single dollar spent.  What if someone doesn't have the money this year to maintain their Kodak account?  What about all the members of the armed forces who are overseas and don't have regular access to email?  Did their photos get deleted too?  This just seems to me to be an incredibly bad decision made by Kodak.  I would have hoped they had a smart marketing and/or PR department that could have guided them thru this decision better. Or, at the very least, an effective legal team to cover all the bases of the ramifications of what this kind of mass deletion would cause. What will it cost them to defend against a class action lawsuit?  I cannot imagine that will be less expensive than buying more storage and implementing a better marketing plan to get idle storage participants to purchase more products thru the site.

If the idea of the purge was to free up space that was costing them money, wouldn't some intelligent member of management have run a risk/reward scenario? I would think that pissing off this many people to the point of NEVER purchasing/using a Kodak product again would end up on the risk side, carrying far more weight than any "reward" offered by freeing up storage space in their servers.

over 7 years ago


Sajid Ali

Just like millions others kodak customers, i found out that all of mine pictures were deleted without giving me any notice or warning about deletion, although kodak claim they did send me 3 emails among hundred of marketing emails so no doubt they were sent to spam and deleted.

my view was that i always logged in whenever i needed it. and i never got any warning message during loggin in.

I will wasted kodak money as a revenge by phoning thier 800 number and usng online chat person on daily person.

and bringing their greediness and carelessness and poor decision to delte all my irreplacealbe memories. as i always thought kodak was my picture backup and storage.

Now i will try my best that kodak goes out of business, they already lost business as they couldnot keep up with digital cameras competition. their digital cameras were and are over prised so only few buy.

lets all boycott Kodak products , everything the kodak makes, sell or sponsor. I will buy kodak elecronics and return them as faulty, again and again, in the end it will cost KODAK a lot.

i was ready to pay them $5-$50, but they never give me the opportunity to pay them and get my pictures, although they claim they send emails.

i phoned them emailed but their worst customer service is good for nothing.

i bet they will looose billions of income and i will be happy to see them gone, just as they made me loose my precious memories.

Wish them the worst.

over 7 years ago



Yep, same story here. No email from Kodak in my inbox about the new policy. Log on and find out everything's gone. I have backups, of course -- why would i trust Kodak with such important stuff? -- but they've convinced me to stay away from their brand.


almost 7 years ago



I unfortunately lost 2 galleries last year in this move of unprecedented dickery. Among those photos were pictures of former projects that I'm now lacking when putting together an online portfolio for prospective employers. I will never purchase another Kodak product or service again. Ever.

over 6 years ago


Becki Paradis

Did anyone start a class action suit! I'm in if they do.

about 5 years ago

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