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The Wall Street Journal

March 30 , 2006

Lawsuit Is Filed Against Kodak

By DAVID ARMSTRONG
March 30, 2006; Page B3

 

A former Eastman Kodak Co. manager says that the company altered millions of photographs stored by customers on the popular EasyShare Gallery Web site and that she was fired after threatening to bring her concerns about the plan to top management.

In a lawsuit filed in California superior court in Oakland, Maya Raber, the former director of engineering for EasyShare Gallery, said that Kodak planned to secretly compress the digital-photograph images stored by customers of the Web site, a process she says can irreversibly damage the images. The suit alleges that she and other employees warned of the potential damage the compression could cause, but higher-ups pushed the plan along.

Kodak, in a statement, said it would not comment on why Ms. Raber left the company in August because it was a personnel matter. Kodak said Ms. Raber's allegations about its photo service "are completely false."

"We have not compressed images that are stored in the Gallery without our customers' knowledge," the statement said. "We feel that Kodak has acted in a manner that is consistent with our corporate policies and ethics, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against all claims to the contrary."

Ms. Raber claims some of the photographic images that are uploaded on the EasyShare Web site are still being compressed and potentially damaged. She says customers are not told of the possible damage.

"I thought it was deceiving and illegal," Ms. Raber said in an interview. She said the idea to compress photo images was part of a cost-cutting plan that would allow the company to save money on photo-imaging storage costs. Ms. Raber claims Kodak used misleading advertising pitches to lure customers to the site.

She says compressed images can permanently lose sharpness and appear grainy when reproduced. An internal panel found the results to be unsatisfactory, Ms. Raber claims. Kodak declined to comment on any effects of compression on the photos.

The lawsuit says that employees who complained about the compression plans were told "this is not a democracy" and "objection to the project will be noticed."

Ms. Raber says after she threatened to submit a report of her concerns to top executives, she was terminated and told it was part of a "restructuring." Her lawsuit alleges she was wrongfully terminated and seeks unspecified monetary damages.

 

Write to David Armstrong at david.armstrong@wsj.com

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