Why to Not Freak Out About the New Instagram Policy… Yet.

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I wrote about issues I was having with Instagram in June of this year.

Social Media Cake

My main concern was that people are using their site as a collection of others’ photos.  But I did also address the fact that once you upload a picture to Instagram, you give them full permission to do whatever they want with it.

This is from their original TOS: (Proprietary Rights in Content on Instagram)

Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the Instagram Services. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.”

And this is from the soon-to-be implemented TOS:

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your user name, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,”

It seems in the broad lawyer language that Instagram is presenting that they have the OPTION to use, sell, distribute your images in ADVERTISING.  Does that mean they will?  Will Instagrams TOS trump any state law?  It remains to be seen.


Social Media Cake

Instagram is a free service.

Instagram is now owned by facebook.  It makes good business sense that facebook would monetize them, and do it in a way that would only benefit facebook.  Do I think that is fair?  Heck no.  Am I ready to give up on Instagram?  Not yet.

They still have lots of issues.  They still have thousands of users who are in constant violation of their TOS, and they are very slow to enforce policy. (if at all)  However, as far as I can tell they have had the ability to use our images since the inception of their services, and have yet to do anything and is blatantly harmful to one of its users.

Should users boycott and demand changes?  Well, I guess thats up to you.

Its always, always a good idea to know and understand the TOS for any social media outlet you use.  (Right now, Google+’s policy states that they cant sell certain images, so its worth looking into if you want a “safer” social sharing site)

We still get the pleasure of viewing others pictures.  I adore the talented and creative people that I follow on Instagram, and for me my time there is often browsing others work.  Sometimes I dont even glance at my own account!

For now, I am willing to utilize their services and take my chances.

*If you do decide to delete your account, utilizing a service like Instaport.me will help you to export your images to your hard drive. (They are experiencing high traffic currently, so do try back if you are interested.)

*If you want to keep your account for now, but still want to take some preventative measure you can:

-watermark your photos in a clear, obvious way

-change your images to a low resolution before posting to Instagram

*Know Your Rights: Photographers (from ACLU)




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  1. Jon says

    I think the most dangerous part of the ToS change at Instagram is that there is no way to opt out. If you continue to upload your photos after the new ToS takes affect, Instagram owns your photos — even if you delete your account.

    Think about that. For now, you’re going to continue using it. But if, say, next February, it turns out they’re selling everyone’s photos and making a mint (and don’t forget not even giving you credit, let alone money), and you decide to delete your account…they still can sell the photos you previously uploaded.

    I don’t have an Instagram account, and now I never will.

  2. says

    I get so much photo and blog theft as it is, whats another one?
    I know that’s bad but I don’t think there is much one can do at this point.
    So I agree with you.
    And now wonder if they will use your “Instagram” cake? LOL

  3. says

    I use my account mainly for pictures of my kids in different places. If I do a picture of them at a beach, who’s to say that picture won’t be sold and my kids will be used in a beach advertisement? I can’t have that. I like posting pictures of the food I decorate, but the safety of my family is more important. I have to delete my account.

  4. John says

    When I heard about this change to Instagram’s ToS I was shocked. Photos taken by individuals are their own intellectual property and cannot be taken, reproduced or sold without the original photographer’s permission. It is the same thing that applies to written works which is why not citing sources in a school paper is plagiarism and will cause you to fail. I am at a loss for how Instagram can simply choose to nullify its user’s intellectual property rights by changing ToS for pre-existing users. They are taking your property and you don’t have a choice because you are already a member. I would hope that legal action against Instagram is swift and decisive. It is this type of overstepping of rights that, if ignored or uncontested, will likely result in far more negative effects than are currently foreseeable and/or will open the door for even more invasive policies. It is situations like this that led me to want to attend law school.

    • says

      Hi John- Everything you have said about photos is still true. It is simply being challenged when you UPLOAD those photos to a social sharing site, Instagram, what rights they have to your work. That being said, I agree with you. I do hope that this is challenged legally. My fears are though that people will be SOL, as it is often our choice to upload pictures or not. There will be grey areas… like when someone else takes a picture of us (or family member’s)… what rights will be have? Thanks for commenting… its good food for thought! :)

  5. says

    I said it earlier today and I will say it again. I feel like this whole “freak out” is just like the whole Pinterest ordeal earlier in the year. I understand not wanting FB to take your photos and use them for however they please but I doubt that is what is going to happen. Could you imagine the shit storm of bad publicity they would receive if they did? In order to make money off your product you have to keep people using the product.

    • KC says

      Except that Facebook has already done something that’s one step down – using user names and photos for “social ads” – which helps acclimate people to the idea of their names/photos being used in advertising (and not being theirs to control). I can’t imagine them not at least trying to find a way to harvest this big pot of money, although yes, they’ll have to figure out a way to minimize PR backlash (for instance, by starting a rumor that they are going to do something Hideously Terrible, and then respond with “No, we’re not doing Terrible thing! Small print: we’re only doing Still Bad thing”).

      Or this trove of content may only come into play if/when they fold or merge, since it would count as a corporate asset and is honestly worth a very large chunk of cash to a lot of people (geotagged, time-stamped, socially-tagged, user-linked photos? That’s a *lot* of nice consumer data for advertisers).

  6. says

    I kind of wish my pics were good enough to be used by Instagram! I’m sure they’re not interested in the blurry pics of my kids playing with the dog, or what I ate at the new local restaurant. I’m guessing they want to use the best pics as a way to tell people how awesome IG can be. I’ll definitely be watermarking the stuff I care about the most, but I’m not sure I’m ready to delete my account.

    Isn’t it true that Facebook can do the same thing? Don’t they claim ownership of pics too?

    I guess all social media comes with a price. Bloggers have been using them daily to advertise themselves for free. It doesn’t have to be an antagonistic relationship. It would really be nice if IG asked before using peoples pics, though.

    • says

      Agreed. And yes, most of these types of rules are already in place through most social media sites. Most dont/cant claim ownership as much as they state that you are ALLOWING them to use it as they wish. I know what you mean though.. the average user (including myself) really doesnt need to worry! :)

  7. says

    I’m going to be deleting my Instagram account, but not because of the new TOS. I’m the first to admit my camera phone pics are not of great quality and only show things like my new shoes, coffee at a local shop, latest book I’m reading etc, so nobody will want to use them. But I used my account as a way to connect with other bloggers and to share my latest ‘finds’ with Twitter. Now that FB own Instagram, all Twitter support has gone. You now have to click on a link and navigate to Instagram to view a followers photo (as the thumbnail etc has gone) and your photos no longer appear in your timeline .That just makes the process too long winded and annoying. I like Twitter far more than Instagram, so it’s time to say goodbye!