Instagram’s Terms of Use Updated … Badly.

Instagram LogoDespite Mark Zuckerberg implying that Facebook’s purchase wouldn’t alter the core fabric of Instagram, a billion dollar purchase price (okay, less than that after Facebook’s share price tanked) means an expectation of a significant return. Sadly, today, Instagram announced a significant update to their Terms of Use which show the decidedly Facebooksih direction that the photo-sharing service is taking to try and bring in the cash. The changes were framed by a blog post which suggests nothing major is changing, but that’s just not true. Here’s a key passage from the updated Terms of Use (which are legally binding as of 16 January 2013):

2. 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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

3. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Or, if I could translate slightly: Instagram may, at their discretion and without telling you, use your photo to sell or promote something to other Instagram users – most likely your followers – and not even clearly identify this as an advertisement or promotion. While, strictly speaking, these Terms don’t alter the copyright status of your photos on Instagram (you own them, but give Instagram explicit permission to use them, re-use them, or let third parties use them as long as you’re still an Instagram user) the tone and spirit behind those uses have changed substantially. Sure, this might be a trade-off that many people are happy with: they get to keep using Instagram for free, and all sorts of new advertisements and promotions appear, some using images you’ve posted.

However, I fear that most people will ignore these Terms of Use changes and notifications. Ignore them, that is, until an advertisement pops up with their head or photo in it and then everyone will get loud, and angry, but unless you’re prepared to delete your Instagram account, there new Terms are absolutely binding. In the mean time, keep in mind you can always export and download all of your Instagram photos and maybe set up with a different service. For more details about what the changes mean, I recommend reading these overviews at the NY Times Bits Blog and the Social Times.

These updated changes may not worry you in the slightest, but please take the time to consider what they mean before they come into effect.

Update (21 December 2012): After considerable public backlash against the new Terms, Instagram have, for now, chosen to largely revert to their previous terms. This is a short-term win insomuch as Instagram are now aware that there are lines that their users don’t want to see crossed. Even though there was considerable misinterpretation (as far as I can see, Instagram never intended, for example, to wholesale sell anyone’s photos), concerns raised were legitimate. However, the longer term problem remains: few people ever read Terms of Use, so a change like this is only ever interpreted as a knee-jerk response against the most sensational media reports. Perhaps the salient lesson here is that at least a passing familiarity with all Terms we’ve signed up for makes us more aware of where we really stand as users, consumers and participants in a mobile media culture?

Incidentally, I’d love it if Instagram added native support for Creative Commons licenses, but I understand that as a Facebook-owned company, that’s highly unlikely. The lesson Instagram might learn from a conversation with Creative Commons, though, is having layered Terms where human-readable terms means read by all humans, not just those with law degrees.

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33 Comments.

  1. Some thoughts about #instagram altering their #termsofuse http://t.co/dg23TjZt #faceboo @ Curtin University http://t.co/7DPSrYPF

  2. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  3. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  4. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  5. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  6. Some thoughts about #instagram altering their #termsofuse http://t.co/dg23TjZt #faceboo @ Curtin University http://t.co/7DPSrYPF

  7. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  8. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  9. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  10. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  11. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  12. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  13. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  14. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  15. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  16. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  17. RT @tamaleaver Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/FK7UXHgS (pls RT)

  18. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  19. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  20. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  21. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  22. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  23. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  24. RT @tamaleaver Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/FK7UXHgS (pls RT)

  25. This post is very clear, thank you.

    Just as I started thinking of using Instagram they were bought up by Facebook, so I backed off and set up my Tumblr instead ;).

    Just to clarify one thing. Does this update simply pull the ToU for Instagram photos into line with the ToU for photos that people upload to Facebook?

    As I understand it, photos uploaded to Facebook can already be used in advertisements (or indeed, however Facebook decides to use them).

    Rgds,
    Eleanor

    • It’s incredibly similar to Facebook’s terms, although the wording is a little different, I think. (Honestly, though, I can’t bring myself to trawl back through Facebook’s terms to compare the text!) :)

      Facebook can, indeed, use your photos in this manner (and these new ToU for Instagram explicitly allow deeper integration with Facebook).

  26. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  27. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  28. @JerrieDemasi here's my grumbling on the #instagram #terms change if you're interested: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi

  29. @McCarthyRohan nice post on it by @tamaleaver here: http://t.co/hhPgk4CV

  30. Please read if you use #Instagram: my concerns about Instagram's new Terms of Use: http://t.co/vsYjUZfi (pls RT)

  31. Flickr – the web’s most successful SNS? | beyond words. - pingback on December 19, 2012 at 9:21 am

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