Monday, July 18, 2005

Grumbling about photo stamps

A while back, the USPS decided to try a great experiment - let people design their own postage with their own photographs. It sounded like a good idea - a fun, albeit expensive, way for people to celebrate family events, milestones, or just be incredibly, incredibly vain. A sheet of 20 first class $.37 stamps was $16.99. Yikes! It was damn pricey. But, for a special event, you've gotta admit, it was kinda cool.

But then, the fine people of The Smoking Gun decided to try their own bold, tongue-in-cheek experiment. Could they get the USPS to actually print stamps featuring a number of questionable events and people, like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Slobodan Milosevic, and Monica Lewinsky's DNA-stained dress? Oh yes, they most certainly could.

The embarrassing scandal that followed The Smoking Gun's revelations (and postage) brought about the scrapping of the experiment. Full stop. I was actually in the middle of planning a stamp order with the head of a co-worker prominently displayed on first class postage when the service was shut down - it was to be a birthday surprise. (In retrospect, I guess, considering how things worked out for me at that place of former employment, I'm glad I didn't have the chance to waste my money!) It actually was kind of disappointing. I thought it was a fun idea.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one. has reopened the vanity postage press, but now, with some pretty severe limitations. Here are the new rules, straight from the website:

Content Restrictions

You agree not to use the PhotoStamps website or service:

A. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material for any unlawful purpose or that is obscene, offensive, blasphemous, pornographic, sexually suggestive, deceptive, threatening, menacing, abusive, harmful, an invasion of privacy, supportive of unlawful action, defamatory, libelous, vulgar, violent, or otherwise objectionable;

B. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that depicts celebrities or celebrity likenesses, regional, national or international leaders or politicians, current or former world leaders, convicted criminals, or newsworthy, notorious or infamous images and individuals;

C. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that you do not have a right to transmit or communicate under any contractual or fiduciary relationship or which infringes any copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right or any moral right of any party;

D. To upload or otherwise transmit any material which is likely to cause harm to the PhotoStamps service or anyone else's computer systems, including but not limited to that which contains any virus, code, worm, data or other files or programs designed to damage or allow unauthorized access to the PhotoStamps service or which may cause any defect, error, malfunction or corruption to the service; and

E. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that emulates any form of valid indicia or payment for postage.

You agree that if, in its sole discretion, determines that any material you upload may not meet these content requirements, may reject your order without explanation. reserves the right to charge a processing fee of $10.00 for each image, graphic or photograph that you submit as an order in the PhotoStamps service which violates our content restrictions.

In addition, in the event you violate these Content Restrictions and you intentionally publicize such violation, you acknowledge that will suffer substantial damage to its reputation and goodwill and that you can be liable for causing such substantial damage.

Whew. Got all that?

While the guys at The Smoking Gun laid bare the limitations and problems of vanity stamps, their experiment also put a halt to more innocent fun. I went to today to see how a picture of my mom in her flight gear would look on a stamp.

Wouldn't you totally dig a stamp like this? I think it would rock.

You can test drive an image before you buy - it's pretty cool, actually. I thought that , if I'm employed come Christmas and have any moolah at all, it would be neat to have Mom stamps for my family Christmas cards. But, alas, it is not to be. One of the results of the 'Gun silliness is this: the PhotoStamps service is "unable to accept images that may be construed as business advertising or notices, or any vintage or older images..."

What a total bummer that is! Crap, crap, crap. I don't hold it against The Smoking Gun - it's a great website. I just wish that the non-devious among us hadn't got trapped in their big tuna net.

C'est la vie. It'll be Santa or the Virgin getting postmarked on my cards again this year. I'll survive.


Spencer said...

I wonder what's considered vintage? So any of your old photos no matter what could be scrapped based on this. Going to cost them sales.

Merujo said...

Absolutely it is. Sure, they will have plenty of people with baby pics and pics of their pets, but I think most of us think it would be cool to have our past on the stamps.

I'm almost 40 - does that mean my kid-era pics are "vintage" now??? Ugh!