Instagram just claimed the right to sell your photos to anyone

People are likely going to be deleting their Instagram accounts in droves, following the news that Instagram is now claiming the right to sell any of your photos to a third party, without giving you a dime for them, nor will you ever know they did it.  And after mid-January, you can’t even opt out.

You have until January 16, 2013 to delete your account, if you don’t, then they’re going to claim the right to sell your photos and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Wired has a good explanation of how to download your photos from Instagram and delete your account

And of course, who owns Instagram, but Facebook – not known for its love of privacy.

Here is the new provision of Instagram’s non-privacy policy:

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.

instagramUh no thank you.  And what about the privacy of children?  Can Instagram even do this, take a photo of an underage child and put it on some billboard without the parent’s permission?

Of course, Instagram will argue that they got your permission when you opened your account (or refused to delete it), since that’s what they said they were going to do with your photos – sell them.  But how does a ten year old give permission for her likeness to be sold worldwide, without her parent’s knowledge?  How does that count as “permission,” when the kid is only 10?

More from CNet:

That means that a hotel in Hawaii, for instance, could write a check to Facebook to license photos taken at its resort and use them on its Web site, in TV ads, in glossy brochures, and so on — without paying any money to the Instagram user who took the photo. The language would include not only photos of picturesque sunsets on Waikiki, but also images of young children frolicking on the beach, a result that parents might not expect, and which could trigger state privacy laws.

I get that it’s hard to keep an online business alive in these difficult times.  But simply declaring that  you might sell people’s personal photos to anyone, at any time, for any purpose, is a bit much. This may have been a fatal move by Instagram. And just wait until they put somebody’s kid on some billboard.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • MyrddinWilt

    Copyright is only one of the issues here.

    I am well known in my field. I earn money from what amount to endorsements serving on technology boards. I am not an Instagram user. I am not a party to their terms of service.

    If someone was to take a picture of me and then that was used as an advertisement I would have a pretty good claim for use of my likeness for an endorsement without permission.

    Getting releases from models is a big deal in advertising. It seems rather strange that they would have overlooked it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Coleman/100001217693049 Thomas Coleman

    “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace”

  • samizdat

    Reason #1231 why I won’t join facebook.

  • Asterix

    Well, deleting your Instagram account is weak tea to Facebook. How about also deleting your Facebook account? (Oh noes–I couldn’t do that! See how they’ve got you? Things offered for free seldom come without a cost.)

  • Mighty

    Why does anyone still think privacy exists at all. If you go on the internet at all you don’t have privacy. Facebook by itself is where your privacy goes to die. People just don’t realize the amount of tracking that already goes on. People don’t even realize when you order a pizza and give them your name and address that they then sell that information to the NCOA which then sells it to third parties like collection agencies which is how they always seem to find people. If you live on a mountain top and have no phones, internet, electricity etc then maybe you have a modicum of privacy. Even then its only an illusion because trust me you are still in databases somewhere even if only IRS.

  • EEDam

    That’s not really how it pans out MyrddinWilt. As the picture taker, you have a prima facie claim to copyright. But even if you accompanied each of your pictures with a statement like you see in the front of a book such as “the copyright of MyrddinWilt as the creator of this image is asserted yaddy yadda”, what all of these terms and conditions say is that you give Facebook or Instagram an unlimited power to reproduce or sub-license (i.e. sell) your stuff at a “royalty-free” rate. So in effect, exactly the same powers you have as the creator of the image.

    What is particularly odious is if you read 2.1 of the Facebook terms and conditions it appears to say to you that this ends if you terminate your account. However, when you read it carefully it says “as long as you haven’t shared that content with anyone else who hasn’t deleted it also. So, basically any normal Facebook and now Instagram photo is theirs as long as someone still has it on their timeline.

    By contrast, Google seems to be taking a better line on this with the “your content is yours” approach and only a right to publish it in so far as it supports the service you are on. That is a bit nebulous but it’s pretty clear which is the better approach.

    And yeah IAAFL ;)

  • Naja pallida

    Seems to me that their claim would be ripped apart with the first real legal challenge. Considering how many celebrities use Instagram, could you imagine if they suddenly decided to start selling Oprah’s pictures? That wouldn’t last long. But it isn’t like Facebook hasn’t been trying to do this kind of thing since day one. The whole point of their service(s) is for you to give them free content and data, that they can resell to whoever pays enough for it. They’re like the Goodwill of internet sites. You donate your time, photos, personal info… they sell it at a profit.

  • ChrisComment

    Slowly, more and more people begin to understand the metaphor of big machines using people as batteries in the Matrix films.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I guess the lesson remains the same: If it’s a supposedly “free” service, if they’re not making money off your information already, expect their business model to include it in the future. Otherwise they never would have secured capital investment money to begin with.

    Glad I don’t have an Instagram account, but if I did, I’d be deleting it immediately. As for the great blue Satan known as FaceBook, I only have an account there because some services use it as a login portal.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’m probably going to delete my Instagram account over this, but I doubt you’ll see Instragram photos appear in TV ads or glossy magazines — the app shrinks and compresses the images to such an extent that they wouldn’t be usable in those contexts. (They may change this of course, or maybe the source images get uploaded, but it doesn’t seem like it.)

  • HolyMoly

    On a semi-related note, it reminds me of when companies take your personal information (name, phone) and sell it to telemarketers. They’re making a little money off YOUR information. I have always joked about getting my name copyrighted, get the little (C) next to my name on my driver’s license, and then nail for copyright infringement the first company that sells my name to a telemarketer.

    As for celebrities, I guess their image is protected under some sort of copyright or something. THEY are their own product and their own bread and butter. I guess now I can joke about copyrighting my image as well, and always wear a button with a (C) on it so that it appears in every picture of me. Not every picture of myself was taken with my camera, so I don’t know who’s going to be downloading my image on their account.

  • ComradeRutherford

    “Can Instagram even do this, take a photo of an underage child and put it on some billboard without the parent’s permission?”

    Of course they can. Who is going to stop them?

    And everyone knows that Facebook never, ever deletes anything. When an account holder ‘deletes’ something off their profile, all Facebook really does is hide that from the user! Facebook still has that information. This was revealed when a Austrian citizen received his account file from Facebook only to find info in there that the had ‘deleted’ years ago. ““When you delete something from Facebook, all you are doing is hiding it from yourself,” Schrems told AFP in his home city of Vienna.”
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/11/13/austrian-student-takes-on-facebook/

    So, sure, ‘delete’ your Instagram account. But now that Facebook owns them, don’t think for one second that your images are no longer on Facebook’s servers!

  • Fentwin

    In the United States Amalgamated, we are nothing more than revenue streams.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Seems like a dubious legal claim.

    The fact that a photograph is uploaded to instagram does not mean that the uploader owns the copyright.

    And if there is an identifiable person in the photograph they had better have signed a release before their likeness is used for an endorsement.

    See Tom Cruise in a restaurant, take his photo, upload it to instagram and they use it for advertising… Thats a million dollar lawsuit right there.

    I would certainly sue if they used a picture of me.

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