Position Statement: Availability of Merchandise Images for Retailers
It is our belief that manufacturers who have product images available should be willing to provide such images to merchants who sell the products depicted, as long as such images are used solely for the purpose of promoting sale of those products. Visible watermarks are acceptable. Merchants should take further measures to ensure that images they display are clearly marked as copyrighted, and to make an effort to provide information on allowed usage of these images.
Other than specifying that images should not be distorted to the point where they are no longer an accurate and favorable representation of the product being depicted, manufacturers should not place restrictions upon the manipulation of product images. Any given retailer may wish to customize the image to fit their layout (e.g. vbz.net's thumbnails are all 144 pixels high, so that they line up nicely when displayed free-form -- see this page for an example), to add a background for more visual interest or to match a color scheme, or to change from one file format to another (e.g. using PNG instead of JPEG, to allow transparency).
Kudos to SunDog and HappyLife for continuing to provide high-quality images, and especially Misty Mountain Press, for continuing to provide images on CD, and to The Mountain for having all their images together on an FTP site for quick downloading.
2005-06-03: Liquid Blue's kudos is currently in an indeterminate state; it may go up or down depending on the answer to my letter. More on this later.