As did Sherry, I turned to PMA and asked about a LOL policy that would incorporate matters digital. I was directed to Phil Moilenen, who has been serving as counsel to PMA for years and is the man behind just about every legal matter involving our industry. His book, Photo Processing and the Law is an industry standard.
It is his opinion that the consumer has to be educated as to matters digital. He said that a new publication, Beginners Guide to Digital Cameras, a 16-page publication that has not yet been distributed by PMA, should be a help. An educated consumer will know to back up any images before dropping off a memory card or disc at a lab, he feels.
Phil said that some work had already been done on revising the LOL policy to include digital concerns but that nothing had yet gone the full route of approval. However, Phil was willing to pass along a sample LOL policy that encompasses the entire scope of both the film and digital aspects of the business. (See sidebar.) This may or may not be the final version but it sure seems to cover it. This sample LOL could be incorporated by concerned minilabs in their in-store signage right away.
Also, the sample may give the envelope manufacturers a head start. Kent Dunham, vp sales and marketing, Mackay Photopak, Minneapolis, claims to be the leader with about 60% of the market and some 3,000 customers. He said the matter of a new LOL had been brought up at the PMA convention and "it is definitely an issue with some of my customers." Two of his customers, Ritz and Costco, have already customized their LOL policy, and others, including Ritz, have designed the working face of the order bag to deal with digital orders. Only a few have done anything.
The Writing on the Bag
I picked up order bags from random retail locations at random to see how the disclaimer policies varied:
Wal-Mart One Hour: Standard disclaimer offers replacement of film-no processing. No mention of digital images or media.
Wal-Mart overnight:—outlab service through Fujicolor: Offers to replace film and processing or cash refund, at the store's option. No mention of digital. (This same disclaimer is used at other Fujicolor retail locations.)
Ritz Camera — standard order envelope: Policy includes the wording "...submitting any film, print, slide, negative or digital image...", acknowledging digital media but the remedy for loss is to replace film and processing.
Ritz Camera, Photronic Image-ination Centers—An order bag truly designed for the digital age in both layout and disclaimer (see artwork). It reads, in part, "...any loss...will entitle you to replacement with a like amount of unexposed film and processing or similar type and capacity of digital media."
CVS — outlab to Qualex: Includes the mention of digital images, but the remedy is for replacement film and processing. I found the same disclaimer at other Qualex accounts.)
Eckerd Drug: No mention of digital media. Replacement of film and processing.
Moto Photo: No mention of digital media. Replacement of film and processing.
Costco: Directly addresses digital in the shortest of the disclaimers I saw-only three sentences (and with the largest type). The key sentence: "Our liability for loss or damage... to film, negatives, digital media, or prints delivered to us for processing and/or printing...is strictly limited to the replacement value of the film or digital media before its exposure or storage of images."