Thoughts on Instagram Terms

Thoughts on Instagram Terms

A couple weeks ago Instagram rocked the photo enthusiast world with a shocking set of terms and conditions. Thousands of people screamed loud, and the terms have been rewritten. The interesting part is that not much as really changed… the most concerning part to a photographer remains solidly in place, but I’ll come to that later. Here are the talking points I think worth noting:

Terms can be changed at any time. Pretty standard, yet annoying. They can change the rules at any stage of the game just by posting new rules on their website. They don’t even have to email you.

Content survives account deletion. If other users have shared your images they may remain on Instagram even if you delete your account. No guarantee though, whether they’ll stay or disappear.

License is non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, and worldwide. This is the biggie. The part about “transferable and sub-licensable” is not further defined, but indicates that they have the right to redistribute any image you upload. In theory, your privacy settings could limit this, but without the appropriate privacy settings, Instagram has the right to sell your photos.

Advertising can be disguised. Instagram doesn’t have to indicate that paid advertising is that, paid advertising. This means they can stick things in your stream that look like normal content but are actually paid. It also means they can potentially stick advertising up in a way that makes it look like you uploaded it so that your friends will see it. Trixy…

Royalty and Trademark Liabilities. Ever posted a photo with a Starbucks logo in the background? You’re liable for any financial damages that a court would award Starbucks. Oh, and this applies to ANY trademark, logo, or model. While the likelihood of this happening is minuscule, the reality remains that you’ve agreed to it.

Content Removal. They can remove any of your content at any time for any reason without prior notification.

Privacy. I’m not super current on privacy policies, but Instagram maintains some interesting rights. They use unique device identifiers, so essentially they can identify your specific cell phone or tablet at any time. Geographic data is available for sharing (controlled by your privacy settings). Personal information that you provide or that they collect through browser cookies is shared with third-party advertisers. Have you ever noticed how you look up a product on Amazon and all of a sudden you’re seeing ads for that same product everywhere? Yeah… Instagram does that too.


That’s the scoop! The biggest issue to me is that Instagram can sub-license my images to others without my specific consent or financial compensation. To be honest though, I don’t forsee this happening large scale, and I don’t post pictures to/through Instagram that have significant financial value. There exists the possibility that they just might like that latest image I uploaded and suddenly it’s the poster child for all of Instagram or some other product. If that happens, there’s nothing I can do about it, and not a penny will come my way. And yes. That has happened to me before.



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