Recently, I had to source some digital files for a client whose portrait and wedding was in 2003 and early 2004. I found files from two sessions but not the 3rd. I know where the 3rd lot of files are.
They are stored on he very first external drive I bought to back up my digital files. I started using digital cameras in 2003. The problem is trying to get those files off that hard disk, after 10 years.
Technology has changed so much since that time and the power lead I had for it doesn’t work and the new leads don’t fit.
I think I can send the drive away and get the files off it and onto a new drive, but the time and cost to that may be prohibitive. I have engaged my tech guy to help and he is going to try and recover the files.
Which lead me to the point of this blog post.
How long am I to be responsible for storing client image data? I know with business and financial data it is 5-7 years, but image data, I know that there is no legal information that I have found on the internet, so far.
When I did a poll within my professional photography friends, the answers varied greatly, from no guarantee that files will be stored and archived to a few years….
Yes, I have literally thousands of client digital files but as far as I know, I am not legally responsible for storing any of them, unless it is stated in my contract with you I do not have to store them ad infinitum.
If you want your files because at the time you didn’t receive them then I am happy to give them to you, for a small fee……. A small fee covers my time to access the archives burn them to a DVD and package them for delivery. Some of you will have had a contract with me that states there maybe other fees depending on the type of photography for which I was commissioned. With wedding contracts a two year time was stated in terms and conditions.
As technology changes the need to migrate data to the current storage device is a timely and expensive thing. I would NOT wish to pass those costs onto my clientele, hence me stating that I will only guarantee to store digital files for a period of 24 months from the date of capture. Current client files will be stored locally (and backed up) for up to 6 months and all client files after that will be archived off site. This will be added to all future contracts.
I always advise that everyone should back up the DVD or USB I sell. It is your responsibility to do so. I would normally tell clients to print out every file at least once, professionally… not at a cheap 10cents per print place. These type of prints DO NO LAST.
After being in business for as long as I have storage space is critical, hence the need for these changes.