Instagram: Share your photos (and privacy, and potential profit) instantly!


It’s Christmas morning, and you and the family have gathered around the tree to open presents.

Your youngest gets that certain something they have been dying for, and embraces it with the perfect “squeeeee!” expression.

And you got the shot with your smartphone. Excited, you want to share it with all your friends and family.

But you might want to think twice about sharing it on Instagram.

Yes, sometimes we photograph our food on Instagram, particularly when it looks as good as these ears of corn from The Local Taco.

In the latest social media privacy and intellectual property kerfuffle, Instagram released new terms of service that have users up in arms because they effectively give it and parent company Facebook the right to use any images posted on the service in any way they please, including advertising.

The terms of service, set to be effective Jan. 16, say, “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 professional photography world has been particularly outraged by this as photographers are used to being compensated for their images, particularly when working with commercial interests. The idea that a major company could just grab their picture, even one shot with a cellphone camera, and sell with no remuneration it is anathema to them.

The move even drew the ire of Facebook founder and owner Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding photographer, Noah Kalina, who tweeted, “pro or not if a company wants to use your photos for advertising they need to TELL you and PAY you.”

 But even a lot of casual shooters would expect some compensation if their picture was out there making money for someone else. And then there’s the privacy issue. You snapped that picture for your private use, and to show to your friends — though yes, we have been told over and over that nothing on the Internet is truly private. To have it show up in an ad would feel creepy at best.

Since this firestorm broke, there has been a calm-yourself crowd making points from Instagram’s policy may not hold up in court, though presumably it has been crafted by lawyers, to “no one’s going to buy pictures of your food.”

Hey, I shot an Instagram photo of the wild-looking ear of corn I was served at Local Taco a few months ago that I thought was pretty cool.

In all seriousness, yes, the chances of any of our photos being grabbed for advertising are fairly slim, particularly for any highly-lucrative campaign. Any outfit with substantial bucks is most likely going to hire professional photographers and designers to create their ad campaigns and have everything from artist contacts to model releases down in writing, on actual paper.

But then again, you never know. Instagram was born from a culture that likes a sort of lo-fi aesthetic. And there are some darned good pictures on Instagram — y’all who make the snarky “pictures of food” comments need to follow better Instagrammers. Clearly, the company wrote its terms of service this way because it sees a potential stock photo market within its product.

Story commenters and Twitter posts  have also said, you all say your mad, but you’re not going to drop Instagram.

Uh, if their policy does not change, yes I will and I think a lot of other people will too.

Of the social media services, it really is not that essential. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr all have their own photo-sharing services. I was happy when Instagram released an Android version earlier this year because it is easy and kind of fun to use. But if I hit delete on my account, I won’t miss it that much.

And really, if they stuck to this policy, we should.

It is sort of stunning that social media providers, particularly Facebook, repeatedly try to enact these rules and rights grabs somewhat oblivious to the fact that they will be virtually eviscerated for it on social media. But then again, if people do rarely vote with their delete buttons, they may be learning there is little to worry about.

This is far from the first time an Internet company has tried to overreach in dealing with its customers, and it won’t be the last.

UPDATE, 10:30 a.m. Dec. 19: Overnight, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom posted a blog entry clarifying the company’s intentions and saying it will remove the language from it’s terms of service which Systrom said was, “confusing.”

“It is not our intention to sell your photos,” he wrote. “We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

He went on to say that the language was to give Instagram latitude to try some new advertising models, but that it was never the company’s intention to sell photos without notification or compensation or violation of user privacy.

“If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you,” he wrote, and addressing ownership he said, “Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos…. we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.”

This is all cool, and makes me think that I will be able to continue enjoying my Instagram account. But really, part of what made this so alarming and believable was the numerous PR blunders Internet and social media companies, particularly Facebook, have made over the years. This should be the latest sign that company executives need to be a bit more thoughtful of and about the people they serve and make fewer anti-social blunders with the presumably social outlets.

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