Instabuck

I’ve posted a few times about how much I love Instagram. You can see all my snaps on the (recently released) Instagram profile page. Unless you’re not one of my ‘followers’. In which case you can’t. I set my account to private, to combat spam. But all is not lost. I’ve long been sending all my Instagram shots to a Tumblr page. Instagram is a great service. And I won’t be using it any more. Indeed, I may well have deleted my account come January 16th. Assuming the Mayan Apocalypse doesn’t delete it for me in a few days time. Why? The new TOS, which have been getting press here, here and here. In fact, this has been getting press everywhere today. And not good press.

I usually go with the flow over these sorts of things. And I’m pretty easy going with the use of my photos. Sharing is caring. All my photos on Flickr are Creative Common licensed. With the exception of commercial use. But it seems that that is exactly what Instagram wants to do with my photos. Sell them, and pocket the cash. All of it.

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.

The section before this entry contains a section stating, ‘…except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy…’ . On the service? Does that mean I can’t control who can see my content if it is used outside of the service? Given that they have already stated they can use a photo (perhaps of myself or a family member) of mine, with the meta data (the GPS co-ordinates of my home?) along with my user name (which is my name), even if I have made the photo ‘private’, then I’m not sure they have a privacy policy.

There are a couple of caveats to this. Firstly, my interpretation could be wrong. Secondly, the TOS may be changed in response to the criticism the company is receiving. There is uproar. How many riots does Instagram want to be at the centre of? I wouldn’t be surprised if it is changed. Could it have been an accident? Facebook own Instagram. I’m sure their lawyers would have been involved. And they’ve been down this road enough times to know better.

This is sad stuff. That such a great photo sharing site should shoot itself in the foot so spectacularly. I’m minded to think that if these terms upset me, then they’ve screwed up big time. Like I’ve said, in this post and many posts before this, I’m really easy going about how my photography is used. Don’t we all dream of shooting a momentous shot? One that captures widespread attention? It happens to plenty of people. So how can Instagram fix it? Well, they could tear those TOS up and start again, and use some common sense this time. But I get the service has to earn money. If they feel this is the only route, then perhaps they should also offer a premium paid for service for those who want to opt out.

They’ve done this at a bad time in other ways. Flickr have just released a new app of their own, and it is freaking fantastic. Yahoo have been investing in Flickr lately, and it’s paying off. And their terms are wholly more acceptable. They won’t use your image without your consent. Full stop. I’m seriously bummed that the app is iPhone only. It’s the first time in my nearly two years as an Android Guy that I’ve wanted an iPhone. I’m sure it’ll get to my Galaxy S2 before too long though. But, for now, I’m stopping uploading to Instagram. I’m not going to invest time into a service that I might be about to ditch. I’d rather use Facebook, if I have to. Ironic, I know – but Facebook TOS appear to be a little more friendly.

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9 Comments

  • Intellectual property? I think that I have an idea of what this is. But as to how to protect it? Well it seems to be a never ending battle. Now is is Instagram and Facebook trying to abuse it in some manner or another but like I say, it is a never ending battle.

    • Bloggers using my photos on non profit sites is one thing. The likes of Facebook or Instagram selling them is another. Instagram has, of course had a ‘change of heart’ regards their TOS and reverted to their old terms. But there’s still a big question mark over them. I’ll continue using the service. For now. When Flickr release their new app on Android, then that will probably change.

  • I am fascinated with these debates about the tension between intellectual property rights and access to social media. This dispute will not be the last. The law is almost always a decade behind technological changes. Custom always controls with new technology. The development of the customs in a free market is a contact sport. Adam Smith could have predicted this one.

    • Technological innovation happens in a heartbeat. At best, any legal judgement has years of litigation and appeals processes to go through before a judgement is reached. By which time, the tech has moved on and the judgement is redundant.

      There have been some similar cases which looked potentially sinister, but turned out not to be quite so malevolent. Dropbox is a case in point. Their TOS looked like they were going to share your stuff, even in private folders all over the place. In fact, the TOS were written, albeit a little poorly, purely to enable them to perform the advertised service.

      This goes beyond all those other cases, even if the intent turns out to be the same, because the TOS are so explicit. Photos can be sold, money received, nil royalties to the photographer. It’s left a certain taste in my mouth. Not a nice one. It’s also affected the way I feel about Facebook in a more negative way. I’ve used and loved both services, but also have had some reservations about Facebook. I re-evaluate my relationship with people and businesses all the time, and I am doing so again. I will probably be careful of what and how I share on Facebook too.

      Adam Smith pilfered a large chunk of his most profound thoughts and theories from a Dutch economist…that probably wouldn’t go down well in the Internet era!

      A couple of the more interesting articles about the Instgram TOS here, here and here.

  • Late yesterday I heard on the news that Instagram has had a change of heart, er…they say the public misunderstood the wording in the new TOS and they will be clarifying it. I use Instagram sparingly, but just in case, I went in yesterday and deleted any photos that I thought somewhat decent (I of course emailed myself a copy for my personal file). I’ve just begun to use flickr and need to figure out how to use it effectively.

    • I’ve been on Flickr since 2005. I’m so heavily invested there it’s be hard for me to pull out. Flickr had been stagnating a little bit (although in my opinion it always remained the best) but it’s had new life breathed into it lately. It’s a good option for your photography, and their TOS are very clear. They’re your images in every way. Full stop.

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