So Instagram can now sell your photos: Get over it

So Instagram can now sell your photos: Get over it

Summary: The Instagram community is complaining about the change to its terms and conditions which allows Instagram to generate revenue from your photos -- without compensating you.


*** Updated***

Instagram made a change to its terms of service (TOS) yesterday, which has caused a kerfuffle about ownership of its photos. The TOS has been changed to include statements about selling your details on to third parties for advertising.

The new terms come in to effect on January 16, 2013. You must delete your Instagram account before then if you want to opt out of the new terms.

The general terms of service state that Instagram:

‘reserve(s) the right to modify or terminate the Service or your access to the Service for any reason, without notice, at any time, and without liability to you’


‘reserve(s) the right, in our sole discretion, to change these Terms of Use ("Updated Terms") from time to time’.

The paragraph which will have the biggest impact on users is:

‘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’.

The community have been in uproar about the news. This change in policy effectively gives Facebook, which bought Instagram and its 5 billion photos in September the rights to sell your uploaded photos. You will not see any revenue, nor get any credit for the images used.

So what is the problem?

You have been uploading your photos to Instagram, expecting the service to be free, available and reliable at all times.

You are not using a paid service. Instagram needs to monetise its services. It has two choices. Paid ads and image use, or it can switch to a paid model for image uploads.

I am happy to let Facebook/Instagram trawl through five billion plus photos, most of them taken with an iPad or iPhone and uploaded to the service.

Let it tidy up grainy, dark, fuzzy out of focus images and offer them for sale. Let it sort through the millions of family, pet, ‘action’ and party photos to find a great image with good composition, framing and colour.

It is welcome to try to make money from my images, such as they are – Instagram still needs to pay the bills to host them.

But if you hate the idea of any corporation making money from the free service it offers you to host your photos, video and status updates then there are some steps you can take.

Use a service to download your photos to your PC such as Softonic or Instaport. Or, delete your Instagram account before January 16th 2013.

And whilst you are at it, you had better delete your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts too – LinkedIn and Facebook both have similar Rights paragraphs in its terms and conditions.

UPDATE: (My bad. LinkedIn removed this paragraph from its terms)

Or you can just put up with it – knowing that your bar room drunken cell phone uploads will never quite make the grade.

*** Update***

Instagram released a blog post explaining its change to its Terms of Service. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom says: 

To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear

Topic: Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • My photos aren't bar room crap shots.

    My photos aren't bar room crap shots. They are professional shots I use to promote my photography business. I am not aware that Facebook assumes the right to sell my images for financial gain and assumed that Instagram would have the same terms. What you're describing here is outright theft of intellectual property, something they would not take very lightly if it was theft of THEIR intellectual property. I don't see why we should be so casual about their doing it to us.
    Dario Impini
    • Isn't that the trade-off?

      in exchange for them creating and maintaining a site where you can use it for free to help promote and grow your photography business, you grant them the use of your photos to help grow theirs.

      How does it differ from an art gallery that shows your work, in exchange for the entrence fee, or a cut of any money from a painting they sell?
      NoMore MicrosoftEver
      • Take a second look

        This is like an art gallery showing your work and then having an unlimited license to sell or use reproductions of your work in any manner they want, absorbing all profits, all without your say so.

        Easy fix: Instagram - Closed - Deleted - Done.
        • And no one forced people to use Instagram

          Nor are they being forced to stick with it.

          With any other business, you would expect to pay for your equipment, supplies, & other necessities to run your business. Sure, if you're starting out & struggling with cash flow, you'll pick the solutions that cost the least (and you won't turn down any freebies that happen to come your way), but no serious business owner expects to always get that free ride.

          Yet when Internet-based solutions come into play, the chorus of "bu-bu-but it's the Internet! It's *supposed* to be free, because I don't want to have to pay for anything!" rises up from the masses.

          You want to showcase some of your items, that's fine. Of course, there's been nothing stopping anyone from "stealing" your items already -- unless you only post low-resolution samples of your artistic work, a simple right-click of the mouse and use of the "Save As..." option, and presto! Someone's downloaded for free something that cost you time and/or money to make. And they just got it for maybe a penny or 2...if you really want to breakdown the download time vs. monthly cost for their Internet bandwidth, and the storage space on the hard drive vs. the cost to buy the drive.

          But that's the chance you take with the "free" options out there. Want a freely hosted website? You have to put up with banner and/or pop-up ads. Want a place to post to your "friends" about what you've been doing? You have to put up with the targeted ads based on the "likes" and "tweets" you've posted on the server, as well as how they correlate with what your friends have posted and what other people in your demographic have posted. Want to be able to freely search the Internet & expect the 'best' search results? Expect to have "targeted" ads on the search results pages, as well as having to wonder how many of the results are there only because someone salted their meta tags with a bunch of crap that has nothing to do with the page itself, or (worse) because they pay a monthly fee to the search provider to be listed as a "recommended" result.

          And to top it all off... *every* "free" provider has had some sort of clause in their TOS that says, "Whatever content you post, host, or otherwise upload to our servers can be used by us to advertise our service... and we reserve the right to sell the data to third-parties". It's been like that since the good-old-days of Geocities.

          And don't forget... when you click on the link/button that says you agree to the TOS, *you've signed a legal document*, just as if you'd used ink and paper to sign an affidavit or other document presentable in court. Sure, it may have run to 20 pages, and most people don't have the time nor the inclination to wade all the way through it... but by clicking that button, you solemnly swore that you understood *and would abide* by the terms of the TOS.

          If someone's going to be a real professional photographer, they should treat their online presence like their equipment: something that's worth investing some money in, so that you can get the best results possible. If you're willing to drop a few hundred or even thousand dollars for a nice digital SLR with extra lenses, filters & other equipment, then maybe spending a little bit of money per month for a professional website (which can easily be found for less than $50 a month) will sound like a good bargain, especially to help retain "creative control" over their work.
          • Close but not quite close enough ...

            No, it's not the users' responsibility to anticipate and accomodate any "service's" business model in advance. The deal struck is the deal to be adhered to.

            Clearly, the "service" may have found that they don't like the deal they, themselves, offered. It's possible that they were too stupid to know better about the deal they offered, but I doubt that. Otherwise, how did they come up with the money to set-up the system in the first place?

            Nope, I suspect they planned all along to have their customers (and if you don't think that they have been making money off of you the entire time you've been accessing their site, you're a fool) invest in putting their photos on-line and then to pull the cord on the trap door.

            However, I do agree with your implied assumption that perhaps too few people will be smart enough on their own to jump ship now that they have the chance. People! Please lissen-up: It costs $150, or less, for 3TB of storage now at your desktop.

            We all should just invest in our own "cloud" right at home and not waste our time, and money, debating the merits of the obvious. We don't need shysters or their self-appointed defenders. Ignore 'em.
      • Do they have advertising?

        I don't know, I've never been there but if they have advertising they are making money from that and that should be the tradeoff.
        • That's the point...

          As I read this, the issue is Instagram can now use you (or your children) and yourimages in their advertising, eh?

          Video: Dick and Jane Rfoto are playing with their father's smart phone and uploading photos to their father's Facebook account.

          Voice Over: "Little Dick and his sister, Jane are having fun with their father's smartphone, uploading pictures to Instagram."
          Jim Kirk
      • @Challenger R/T

        You're not seeing this situation very clearly.

        Here's an analogy for you: If someone gave you access to an apartment that you can use for free, do you think they should be able, at any point, to suddenly change the rules to give themselves the right to enter that apartment at any time, go through your personal stuff, take your belongings without compensating you and then sell these items to make money for themselves? That's what Instagram is effectively doing. In the real world, that's called theft. Offering services for free doesn't give you the right to do absolutely anything you want to users of your service.
        • and here is one for you

          Your access suddenly comes with a price of personal intrusion that you are unhappy with. You find another place to live.
        • The change is that sudden ...

          If someone gave you 30 days notice that the terms of your free apartment were changing, I don't think you'd have anything to complain about if you stayed.
    • Win-Win

      you use their free service to make money and stay in business, how is it theft when they simply also gain from the relationship to stay in business. would it be theft if they asked you to share profit from those clients you gained as a result of using the service to promote your business?
      • And people complain about Google.

        Facebook and everything touched by them is a disgrace. Facebook really is terrible, use Google Circles instead.
        • LOL! Don't you mean that anything Google touches is a disgrace?

          making Apps a paid to use service, now? Just shutting down offereings at a whim? Pulling Sync support? And Google+ and Circles? Nobody uses those, so they'll be gone soon.

          And your words tell me you've never read Google's privacy policy.
          William Farrel
          • Nope, nobody uses Google+

            Not even Google employees.

            The question is, were you lying or just not thinking?
            John L. Ries
          • Have you read them Wlliam?

            Share your vast wisdom. Please :-)
          • Really?

            Google actually has a "privacy policy"?!?
            Jim Kirk
          • The cloud is slowly self destructing.

            As it should be.

            The whole scheme is based on the philosophy that "you can fool all the people all the time".
          • I wouldn't go that far...

            ...but on the whole, self-sufficiency is the better policy to the extent one can afford it.
            John L. Ries
    • Said it before...I'll say it again.

      If anyone is stupid enough to use Farcebook, or any other of these Cloud/Social Networking sites, to store personal or professional information...then stop the whining...and just get over the fact that you have given up ALL rights to your files.
      • Spot on!

        I post pictures on Facebook but never the super private ones that may come back to bite me. Or private pictures of family, mostly I post generic pictures, ones that anyone could get.