Instagram’s Right to Sell a User’s Photo Without Permission

Instagram is the now popular free photo-sharing service bought by Facebook for around a billion dollars in April, having over 100 million registered users since Facebook’s acquisition. Confusion, anger and displeasure dominated the internet community with Facebook’s decision to update Instagram’s terms of service and privacy policy which were taken in the context of Facebook retaining the right to use publicly posted Instagram photos for any purpose it deems fit. This is according to the new terms of service posted by Facebook on December 17, 2012.

The new and updated terms and privacy policy will be introduced and be effective on January 16, 2013. The updated terms posted insinuated that Facebook/Instagram has the right to sell the Instagram photos without the need for permission from the owners of the photos. Worse, any revenue generated from such sale will not be shared with the Instagram photo owners.

The Monday post generated enough ire from Facebook and Instagram users, not understanding why such new policies will be implemented without regard for the users’ say on the matter. The issue took an instant, violent reactions to surface on the web as irate Instagram users criticize the new terms and policy.

The heat created by such reactions to the new terms elicited an immediate response from Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom who clarified the policy and made it clear on December 18, 2012 that Instagram will not sell user photos without their permission, pointing to the wordings used in the new terms of service as to be blamed for the confusion.

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The Instagram co-founder explained that the reason for updating the terms of service was to communicate to the users about Instagram’s plan to experiment with innovative advertising which was wrongly interpreted by many.Systrom explained that the update was brought about by an “advertising scheme on Instagram that might include promoted posts, and in order to help make a relevant promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow the business.” In such case, it will be inevitable to see some of the data posted, like the actions taken and the profile photo, show up in the ads.

As a matter of clarification, Systrom made it clear that Instagram has no intention of selling the user’s photos. Where the language in the terms of service caused the confusion, Systrom informed the public that the same language will be removed to fix the mistake and eliminate the confusion.

Systrom continued by stressing that Instagram users own their photos and that Instagram wants its users to feel comfortable sharing photos and that will be respected. In conclusion Systrom confirmed that privacy settings will remain intact as the public is advised to check the new updated terms that will remove the confusing wordings and clear up any misunderstanding of Instagram’s real intention.


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