Thursday, October 30, 2008

Off the Tracks

I know there are several photographers here in Hawaii, myself included, that were members of Digital Railroad, a three-year old company featuring online storage capacity for photographers producing images... and an online stock agency, marketing photographer's images online by allowing art-buyers to perform highly targeted image searches, purchase use licenses and download those licensed images all from the convenience of their computer. While, in no way is this an original idea, DRR did take a smaller cut of those licensing fees than most traditional sources of stock photography. Membership to their service was a bit pricey ($550/year for a prepaid service subscription billed a year in advance) but advantages seemed many, 100gb  of online storage capacity on their servers, access to and the ability to add images from your archives to the DRR "Marketplace" stock library which was accessible to all potential stock photography and art-buyers... DRR even sent out a daily "want list" to member photographers, the list assembled from image requests from book & magazine publishers.

It was about a month ago when rumblings began being heard that all was not well with DRR. On Tuesday, the company sent out a notice to members that it was shutting down and members had 24 hours to download their image archives (and it appears that may photographers were storing their ONLY copies of their work at DRR). The bad news is that the company was only now operating a single server to handle those huge image file downloads, leading to shut downs, error codes and long-slow .ftp queues as members hoped and prayed that the system would stay up long enough to retrieve their content.

The Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) has apparently negotiated a deal on behalf of DRR members to keep the server up and running until 11:59pm tomorrow (Friday) night, giving members a little more time to retrieve their files. Not the best possible solution, but certainly a better alternative outcome for those with original content and no other form of back-up hosted at DRR. Kudos to Betsy Reid, Executive Director at SAA, and her staff for stepping in on behalf of all DRR members.

As a member, I find the actions of DRR reprehensible. I was just auto-billed for another year of membership in August. Fortunately, all of my images hosted at DRR are also backed up on on hard drives in a mirror RAID configuration. Still, I began calling DRR on monday to try and find out exactly what was going on. Already on monday, almost all of DRR's phone lines had been shut down. Email queries to DRR were returned as undeliverable. As I said, all of this had taken place by monday... at least a full-day prior to the company telling members it was shutting down. I could go on and on about how poorly treated I feel we members have been from the company that had no problem with taking our membership fees without advising us of the real problems within the company. In lieu of my rant, I direct you to one penned by photographer Vincent LaForet who states the case both eloquently and powerfully here.

So... those of you with images stored at DRR... get to it, if the servers stay up, you have until midnite tomorrow. As soon as I post this entry, I'm going to attempt to delete my DRR archives hoping to avoid them turning up somewhere if and when another party gets hold of the DRR hardware in the future.

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