Mark Loundy
What the heck were you expecting when you joined Instagram?

OK, everybody has now ridden the Instagram roller coaster from the depths of complacency to the peak of righteous indignation. Instagram has backed off its proposed changes to its Terms of Service (TOS) and everything can go back to the way it was.

I hope to heck not! The old TOS were hardly photographer friendly.

Here’s the old (and slated to be current) TOS under the “Rights” section:

“1. Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.”

Let’s take each sentence and translate it into English:

1. “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service.”

This one’s easy. They say that you own your stuff and they don’t. But “ownership” is not what it’s all about with imagery. It’s all about rights and licenses.

2. “Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”).

”This means that you grant them the right to use your stuff in any way they choose, including charging others for usage (“sub-licensable”.) The term “non-exclusive” means that you can still use your stuff.

The recent dust-up over the TOS changes focused on Instagram’s proposed intent to use member images in advertising without cutting the photographer in on the deal. Well guess what? The TOS permitted that before and the “new” TOS do too. The only significant difference is that Instagram no longer claims the right to use the photographer’s name and/or likeness along with advertising they might sell.

Instagram is and has always been a business. They have the right to make money. I think that all social media users have the responsibility to participate with the clear knowledge of the legal and financial implications of their participation. In this case, their uploaded images and interaction with other users form the core value of the company. Each individual has to decide if the value they get out of membership is worth the usage rights they give to the company. I’d be surprised if that particular calculus works out for any professional photographer.

  1. markloundy posted this
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