Upload & Sell: Off
Soon after filing his patent, Peter Wolf joined some photography forums, and announced that his company was posting pictures on what he called the "WEB". In one of his earliest posts, around January of 2001, he capitalized the term "WEB" at every instance he mentioned, as if the "WEB" was a big new deal, in . Not. The world wide web had been established for 10 years by that time. And the internet? Long before that. I received my first email in 1981. The internet, and the world wide web moniker, metastasized into a household noun between 1992-1996.
Peter Wolf, on February 28, 2001, admitted that he didn't even pick up a camera (or start photography) until 1998.
Not surprisingly, Peter's braggadocio posts regarding his hosting images online were for the most part ignored as ho hum, also ran. At that time, he was trying to solicit the business of other photographers to host their pictures on his photocrazy website, and to use his "software." But the photographers didn't bite. Why? Because there were plenty of more established alternatives (prior art) already in existence to publish pictures for inspection, selection, and distribution online.
While many of those previously established software and hosting solutions have long since shuttered over the years, in what we can all agree is a difficult business to survive in, here is a brief look down memory lane for the those who might remember:
KODAK (who can forget Kodak?)
Kodak had several products directed toward helping event photographers publish pictures for inspection, selection, and distribution.
- Kodak's PC EVENT system
- Kodak's PC PRO system
- Kodak's PORTRAITS & MORE system (a derivative of PC EVENT)
- Kodak's PRO SHOTS (the domain "PRO SHOTS" is now owned by another party unrelated to Kodak)
In addition, Kodak pioneered digital photography (and their own demise) with ground breaking cameras such as the DC2000, the NC2000, the DCS520, DCS620, DCS720, DCS760. And, Kodak supplied the event photography community printers, including the ever popular high volume ML-500.
Beyond what was available over the counter, Kodak helped develop embedded proprietary systems for one of the largest event photography operations in the world.... Disney. At Disney theme parks and properties, there had already been a system for taking pictures of guests, and publishing those pictures for inspection, selection, and distribution over a computer network... even when that network was only a LAN and/or a WLAN extending from the ride/photographer location to the other side of the Disney themepark where the customer viewing, ordering, and printing offices were located. However, Kodak also hosted these photos online (yes, on the "WEB") for customer inspection, ordering, and most important to Kodak... printing.
Over the last 20 years, Disney has greatly revised and expanded their methods of publishing pictures for selection, inspection, and distribution over a computer network, by linking all of their theme parks worldwide over the internet, and linking the customer ID to the "Magic" bracelet worn by entrants to their properties.
It is interesting to note that Wolf didn't try to go after Disney, but instead chose to selectively attack smaller event photography entities who were significant enough to produce meaningful licensing revenue, and yet too small for the math of litigation to pencil out. It is my opinion that had he attempted to sue Disney in the first place, he himself would have been buried in prosecutorial legal fees that would exceed any realistic risk/reward ratio of a contingency fee agreement.
For those who read the recent summary judgement, you may have noticed where the judge pointed out that Wolf's pleadings tried to emphasize the limitation in the scope of his patent to just sporting events, in order meet a legal test to prevail against Capstone's rebuttal of the alleged infringement. Yet all over Wolf's website, and in his certified letters (a verbatim copy of which is posted above), and in his cryptically veiled posts on this forum, and even in the summary abstract of the patent itself, Wolf attempts to imply a broader scope of patent coverage, encompassing the entirety of event photography. But in front of a judge, it's a down to the brass tacks. Just sports. OK. But Disney still hosts a very active onsite/online sports event photography business at Disneyworld, where event photographers shoot youth sports competition pictures, and publish those pictures for inspection, selection, and distribution over a computer network, both online and onsite. Yet Disney was not targeted. Hmmm
On with more prior art...
Still in business today, Tri-Prism began in 1993. It's fame in the event photography online solutions market lies in one of it's long time flagship products called TEPS-X. The suffix "X" has changed over the years since TEPS was first released in 1998... well prior to Peter's filing. At the time Peter surfaced online, TriPrism's then current revision was called TEPS-2000. Photographers like Roger Wilderotter used this system happily.
Cerious software introduced "Digicam" in 1992, and the more popular " THUMBSPLUS " aka " THUMBS+ " software in 1994. Thumbsplus was an image database sorting program that used Microsoft Database Access Components (MDACs). To any extent that Wolf took credit for using database tag techniques for resorting images online, he will find that others have been there, done that, years before Wolf even took up photography. Search ThumbsPlus and Philip Crews for more information.
ACDSee was an immensely popular event photography software solution.
Chris Breeze established what became Breeze Systems in the 90's, writing software tools that help digital event sports photographers browze and sort through the high volumes of image data endemic to our industry. His most popular product, Breeze Browser, is still sold today, but he had other more specific niche products that were less known, but were adopted to publish images for inspection, selections, and distribution over a computer network.
An event photography sorting identification software product developed by Giant Leap Solutions for Multi Visual Products (aka MVP), one of the largest youth sports trading card photo companies, established in 1993, and greatly expanded in 1996.
Today, "Vivi Dot" is a small fashion accessories button maker. But back in the day, VIVIDOT was an event photography system that involved issuing an identifying tag to each participant at an event, where these participants could be shot at random times by random photographers, and yet the images would still be sorted for the participant to easily find online following the conclusion of the event. The system was demonstrated by Canon at a public event, and became the subject of a broadcast TV news segment that is still visible on YouTube. In that instance, the identifying tag was a small label adhered to the outer garment of the participant.
Besides VIVIDOT, there were other iterations of this automated sorting and selecting of images of thousands of participants at events, like autoshows, for example. In the autoshows, participants whose photo was taken were given a bar coded piece of plastic the size of a credit card. They would simply have to go the website address on the card, and enter the number, and voila, all of their pictures would appear. The implementations of these types of systems that I have seen have been since model year 2000... however there may have been earlier deployments, due to the depth of development already in place by the time I saw them. These things don't spring up over night.
An early pioneer in streamlining the digital picture taking, editing, selecting, and producing processes, Express Digital was the defacto standard for independent (and independently wealthy) event photographers at the flowering of the digital event photography phenomenon. I say "independently wealthy" because ED was expensive, at $4,000 per license, with additional fees charged for each "dongle" plugged into subsequent computers to expand the system.
The high acquisition costs of ED is probably responsible for inspiring the explosion of alternative event photography software solutions that IT techs turned photographers, and photographers turned IT techs, turned to. The line was blurring between the two professions, creating newly minted freshmen in both fields, much to the consternation of long time professionals in either field.
From Express Digital was associated with the photo hosting and sales site
On this note, I just realized that to write details about every single player in the online image hosting and posting photography field is way beyond the scope of necessity at this point. But I am going to post a host of names, most of which are now out of business, but who were actively in business in the very late 90's, as the mirage of a business opportunity in event photography self presented itself to everyone interested in the endeavor. The sheer number of players who saw these opportunities with equal simultaneity as the enabling technology and expansion of infrastructure rapidly evolved, as did the obvious means and methods available at the time to capitalize on them, is a strong indicator of how little Wolf even contributed to the art, much less "revolutionized", as his letter claimed.
Even Wolf himself publicly stated, over 13 years ago, that he "found many services that will allow (sports event photographers) to post pictures (online) and if you want, take care of the fulfillment process as well." The context was a post where Peter was trying engage the interests of other event photographers to use his photocrazy website to host their pictures, instead of the other established services that he "found", because he felt his was better.
Many of the domain names listed below are now parked awaiting resale, and some have been resold and repurposed for new endeavors. And a couple here and there might still be active in their original form. However, the purpose of this list of event photography online picture presentation software, hosting, and business names below is to serve as a discovery index to many of the established entities already engaged in the business of publishing pictures for inspection, selection, and distribution over a computer network, prior to 1999.
So here is the rest of the trip down memory lane. By all means, if you remember using any of these legacy event photography software programs or online hosting services listed below at any point in your career, post a few comments about it. Combined with an entirely different list of prior artisans that I posted several pages ago in this thread, It will serve the greater good of our sports event photographic community at large if the prior arts are better excavated from your personal experiences and memories... as many of them otherwise lay well buried in the tombs of dissolved domain businesses that were based on unviable digital dreams reminiscent of the Gold Rush.
ORDERPICTURES (since 1996, used lab counter software to extract EXIF data. Still in business)
QIMAGE (since 1998)
CLUBPHOTO (later became DIGIPROOFS)
ARLES (image web page creator)
IMATCH (image sorting software)
PHOTOGRAFIC (an equestrian photo website)
EVERYBODYSMILE.CO.UK (just one UK site, there were many, but not listed due to jurisdiction of US patent)
Some sports event photographer websites back in the day (1999 and prior)
PROMOTIONPHOTO Cecil Walker
ACTION-FOTOS Bob Branam
PODIUMFOTOS Doug Sheppard
HEADONPHOTOS Norm Cabana (passed away in 2008), sorted photos by car number
THESPORTSECTION Ken Brooke (since 1996)
SETHRESNICK (need more be said?)
SPORTSACTIONPHOTS Gregory Rice
ACTIONPIXS Robert Longhitano
ICONPHOTOGRAPHICS Jaime Wright
RAPIDSHOOTERS (since 1985, owner deceased)
Some other sports event photographers who reported having active websites prior to 1999...
Mark Lumaye (since 1993, but didn't post online until June 1999)
Joe Starkey (since 1998, shoots marathons)
Delane B Rouse (popular and active Sportsshooter member, see his profile for CV)
One must step back into the time frame of the late nineties, when the idea of photos on the net was still met with resistance from those harboring concerns for participant privacy and photographer copyright. It was a bigger deal then, and photographers especially faced a lot of risk and resistance. Parents would demand that their kids be taken down. NCAA athletic directors would demand that their athletes be taken down (affected eligibility rules newly enacted in 1999... why? Perhaps because photographers where hosting and posting photos in 1998).
Of course, in the meantime, beginning in 1995, Getty and Corbis were simultaneously swallowing up sport stock agencies, and publishing their newly conglomerated image vaults for inspection, selection, and distribution online.
Looks like the central ideas involved here were obvious to a lot of people. Only some gained more out of them than others. Think about all the photos that were hosted by GEOCITIES (not specifically for photographers, GeoCities is where everyday man practiced the art of posting pics)
Another historical resource that doesn't specifically predate 1999, but evolved at the same time:
EVENTPHOTOMARKET Jim Roshan, who also started
IAPEP (International Association of Professional Event Photographers) which later evolved to
SEP (Society of Event Photographers) which became subsumed under
I hope this historical information is of some use in the event that Wolf attempts to double down to mount an of appeal this decision. If he had just left Capstone alone, and not sued anyone else, he could have enjoyed an unchallenged patent that Brightroom and MarathonFoto already signed onto as licensees. But greed has it's cost.
You see, both Brightroom and MarathonFoto were acquired by an investment group that made 14 other strategic event photography related acquisitions to form a group under one roof that generates $100 MILLION in annual sales, servicing over 3,000 event sponsors while shooting over 5 million athlete/participants in over 5,000 distinct events... every year. Not just trivial events either. We are talking New York City Marathon, Boston Marathon, etc etc. Wolf appears to have had a lot to loose. And yet not surprisingly, it appears that Wolf wanted more.
No wonder he was following Michael Skelps posts all over the internet, pleading for Michael to contact him to work things out. If the licensing agreements that Wolf worked out with MarathonFoto and Brightroom (now morphed into BackPrint, the fulfillment arm of the group) are dependent upon his patents being VALID, and now, after their very first court test, these patents were resolutely found to be INVALID, in summary judgement no less... this could be a problem for Wolf, as the invalidation could render the licensing agreements null and void.
And it's about time, too.