Thoughts on the New Instagram Terms of Service, And It’s Subsequent Responses

Earlier today, a friend re-posted an article with the tweet “by someone who actually bothered to read it” regarding the new #Instagram Terms of Service debate. Well, dear person who wrote that, I would kindly like to invite you to go fuck yourself.

Contrary to that snarky little troll’s suggestion that all the uproar was by people who didn’t even read what they were complaining about, I did, in fact, read the new ToS that Instagram posted and the terms and language was pretty damn clear to me. I am a photographer and producer who constantly deals with the legalities of image use both in my own work and for other photographers. There was no question to my mind, or the minds of a number of other users what the intent was.

It said that Instagram could use my photos for advertising without my permission and very clearly stated that they could even get compensation for my images. There was nothing UNCLEAR about that statement. No, the language did not say that they could directly sell my images, but does that matter? A blanket statement allowing a social media network to use my photos and get compensated for it – however that compensation breaks down – is not okay. Whether its an image from an upcoming fine art series I’m working on that I feel like sharing to get feedback or a random picture of the foam bird the guy at the coffee shop put on my latte, no one should have the right to use those photos without my express permission.

This language was so widely “misinterpreted” that Instagram quickly back-pedaled after the outcry of users who did read the ToS, saying, like a sheepish boyfriend trying to apologize when he knows he’s wrong – “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Um, I’m sorry, but I’m calling BULLSHIT. They meant it like that. The language and intent were clear, there is no question. Instagram only started to “Clarify” after a large number of celebrity users started dropping the service like it was a blanket covered in small pox. Facebook owns Instagram. And Facebook has long been trying to figure out a way to get away with this kind of crap. The ToS on FB is questionable at best and it seems to me that this may have been an attempt to see just how far they could push things before their users would indeed jump ship. Judging from the fact that it has taken me all day to get into Instaport (to export all of my images from Instagram in preparation to leave the service) and that the Instaport service has been crashed from overuse for most of the last day that there is a large number of people who know exactly what Instagram meant and didn’t like it.

And if I was even the least bit unsure of my own interpretation of the ToS language, there is this: That – to everyone who supposedly “misconstrued” the language in question – is pretty damn clear.

National Geographic – one of the most respected and long running magazines on the planet – has suspended it’s Instagram account because the powers that be at NatGeo thought the language on the ToS was clear enough that they want no part of it. I don’t think the lawyers at National Geographic had any doubt in their minds as to Instagram’s intent when they read the same lines that I did. They think it’s shady. So do I. So should you.