Instagram Denies It Claimed Ownership Of Users’ Images

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Instagram promised not to sell user photos after a policy change gave it “perpetual” rights to uploaded images

Instagram, the photo sharing service owned by Facebook, had to issue a hurried climb-down when a massive user protest greeted its new terms and conditions, which appeared to claim the right to sell users images and use them in advertising.

The change made to its terms and conditions, which would come into affect on 16 January 2013, prompted fears that it would be able to sell users’ uploaded images. Angry users took to Twitter to vent their anger, with reports of users even closing their Instagram accounts.

Instagram protest on Instagram

national geographic abandons InstagramThe move also prompted the National Geographic to suspend its use of the service – announcing the move appropriately anough with an image uploaded to Instagram. 

And unsurprisingly Instagram competitors also did not take long to make their views public of the Instagram changes. Photo-sharing service Glopho for example labelled the changes as ‘extraordinarily unfair’.

“The idea of free-to-use and dominant social platforms with millions of users forcibly making sweeping changes to its policies, like those announced by Instagram recently, seems extraordinarily unfair on the user,” said Glopho CEO and Founder, Simon Walker.

“We have always believed that sharing photos was a great idea, and with my own background in press photography I realised there could be real value in some of those photos,” said Walker. “That is why Glopho actively seeks to sell those photos that users upload that we believe have the greatest value, but we are clear that ownership should remain with the user and that commercial use is agreed under licence. The revenue generated from such licensing is shared equally with the picture owner.”

“To propose snatching that value away from users seems remarkable, and we think will see a predictable backlash against any organisation or service that tries to do so,” he added. “The consumer is better informed and has more choices than these policy changes seem to give them credit for.”

The uproar following the policy changes may have caught Instagram by surprise, and its management was quick to respond.

We’re Listening

CEO and co-founder, Kevin Systrom, quickly posted a blog entitled “Thank you and we’re listening”, in which he attempted to clarify some of the policy changes.

“ Since making these changes, we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean,” wrote Systrom. “As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.”

He then admitted that the wording of the policy change was confusing, but was really intended to allow for advertising, and not the selling of users photos.

“Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one,” wrote Systrom. “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,” Systrom admitted. “We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

Twitter Tension

Systrom then promised that the users will still retain the ownership rights to their images.

“Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed,” he said.

Systrom also issued reassurance about privacy concerns, saying that users retained the right to set who can see their uploaded images.

“I am grateful to everyone for their feedback and that we have a community that cares so much,” Systrom concluded. “We need to be clear about changes we make – this is our responsibility to you.”

Earlier this month Instagram triggered anger, when it restricted its photo integration with the microblogging website Twitter, in a sign of the growing tensions between the two platforms.

The move meant that Instagram images appeared too large in Twitter feeds, and are consequently cropped.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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