Instagram changes its terms, can license your images for ads

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Instagram has revealed a new Terms of Service (TOS) agreement for its users that will become effective on 16 January 2013.

(Credit: Instagram/CBSi)

One particular change to the TOS will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the Facebook and Instagram relationship closely. We have known for a while that Instagram and Facebook were going to start sharing user data — it seemed inevitable, given the buyout of the photo-sharing service.

The TOS now confirms this, and the data sharing is highlighted as a key change from Instagram's blog:

Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.

However, a new clause has emerged that is more alarming for photographers who use Instagram to share photos. The service now has the ability to use your content to serve advertising. That filtered photo of your lunch can now be used by an advertiser to sell other people a sandwich (just as an example).

Just last week, it emerged that ads within Instagram will be coming sooner or later, as Facebook moves to monetise the service. The TOS states:

Some or all of the service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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 username, 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.

There is also a key difference between the old terms and the new ones. As outlined by photography site PopPhoto, compare the following two sections (emphasis added):

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 licence 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. — current Instagram TOS.

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 licence to use the content that you post on or through the service, except that you can control who can view certain of your content and activities on the service as described in the service's Privacy Policy. — new Instagram TOS.

The term "sub-licensable" is similar to one that has appeared in Facebook's terms over the years. It means that Instagram can license your work to another party. Similarly with "transferable", which means that your rights from a particular photo can be transferred to someone else.

This change will no doubt set off alarm bells in the minds of many professional photographers who use Instagram to display their work.

There are, of course, options available for users who don't want to accept the new terms. You can download all of your images that have been uploaded to the service, and then delete your account. Do be aware that the methodology for deleting an Instagram account is slightly different to Facebook. Once you hit delete, the account is not recoverable, and you cannot sign up again with the same username.

You can read the new Instagram TOS in full here.

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DcrS posted a comment   

This is insane, as a marketer i can only imagine what Implications this will have on the future of photo sharing and images on the web in general. This may open whole new bag of worms for online images as well.


trebor83 posted a comment   

The reaction to this amuses me a lot.

The new TOS are actually more RESTRICTIVE about what Instagram can do with your photos then the old ones and the parts that people are freaking out about have always been there. Yet it wasn't a problem last week.

Check out Nilay Patel's look at this on The Verge for a good analysis that does a great job of translating from 'Lawyer' to human speak


LTLsisaleo posted a comment   

now heres a question lexy what about ppl such as yourself or other high profile person shares photos.. what happens then?


Lexy Savvides posted a reply   

It makes zero difference. The TOS apply to all users.


RobM8 posted a comment   

Welp! Time to retire Facebook ****


RyanB3 posted a comment   

looks like il be switching to an alternative called Eye em.


ResoLite posted a comment   

I don't regularly use FB or IG, but I have to say this seems pretty awful. I understand that they may wish to place advertising on the app to get some revenue out of it, but forcing every user to give free licence to use their personal photos for advertising purposes? That's ridiculously exploitative. It's like telling a performance artist 'Why yes! Sure you can perform on this public street, but please be aware we can


ResoLite posted a reply   

... & will record every second of your work and sell it to the highest bidder the first chance we get, regardless of how they choose to use it'. I don't care to have my mugshots used for viagra ads, thanks anyway.

Depressingly I suspect many people will keep using the service without realising that they are effectively selling out their own content just by uploading it. Suggestion: Change the names to FaceBucks and InstaGrands. They now seem far more appropriate, and might give the users a more accurate idea of how these apps operate.


AllanC1 posted a comment   

Anyone with any sense should stop using Instagram right away. Don't let your content be used by these swindlers who can't even pay royalties

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