Many Instagram users were angry last Tuesday after the social networking site announced its recent policy changes, and new terms of service that gave the company the right to own the images of its users. With 100 million users, that’s a lot of photos snapped, digitally filtered and shared to friends around the world.
According to Kevin Systrom, on the other hand, “Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. We respect that your photos are your photos. Period,” trying to calm down the ire and reassuring Instagram users in a recent blog entry published last Tuesday.
One of the clauses stated in the new terms of service state that Instagram can convert images into ads without consent or payment for users, and this new clause will start in Jan. 16. Apparently, this is Facebook’s way of making money from Instagram, which it purchased just this year for 715 million dollars.
The clause enraged a lot of photographers, professional and amateur alike, including Noah Kalina, the wedding photographer of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In a tweet, Kalina said, “Pro or not if a company wants to use your photos for advertising they need to TELL you and PAY you.”
Close to fifty percent of online users post original, self-made videos and photos according to a survey done by the Internet & American Life Project of Pew Research Center. As such, it is not hard to imagine why a lot of Instagram users were infuriated by the new policies.
As a kind of mea culpa, the following is an excerpt from Systrom’s blog entry explaining the new terms of service:
Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. 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.
Furthermore, Systrom adds that Instagram respects the effort of creative artists and hobbyists, and that the site will be in full support of the rights of the Instagram community.
On the other hand, Kurt Opsahl, an Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney, said that the blog post still has a lot of loopholes. He said:
“They say they don’t have any plans to put your photos in an advertisement, but nevertheless that is the permission they were seeking. We will have to see what the language of the terms of service looks like after they revise it.”
Many, including Jeff Lawrence, photographer, graphic designer, and DJ basin in Lawrence, are waiting to see how Instagram will respond to the criticisms. Furthermore, Clayton Cubitt, a filmmaker and photographer based in Brooklyn, said “They look at users as a herd to milk.”
The damage done as a result of the backlash against Instagram is not yet known, but many have called to boycott the site, including Hacker Anonymous, who has urged its Twitter followers to do so and posted pictures of those who had indeed backed out of Instagram.
Mat Honan of Wired.com quit Instagram last Tuesday because of “principle.” He says, “I’m tired of contributing to the commodification of my own existence. I’m not a pork belly, or a barrel of oil. I’m tired of clicking on agree, when I vehemently oppose. I’m tired of saying yes, when I want to say no.”