Less than 24 hours after we revealed Instagram’s plans to sell off user’s photos to third party advertisers without their knowledge and without any form of compensation, the photo-sharing site has made a humiliating climb down, and now insists it never had any intention of doing such a thing.
Instagram’s new Terms of Service sparked outrage among users after just hours after they were posted onto its site, with many taking to Twitter to voice their anger and others purportedly deleting their accounts in protest. The changes, which don’t take effect until January 16, ‘seemed’ to suggest that users must agree to give the photo-sharing site perpetual rights to all of the content they upload, if they want to continue using the site.
Effectively, this would allow Instagram to use people’s images (along with their user names and locations) for commercial purposes, without any need to inform anyone it was doing so.
“Thank you, and we’re listening”
Now, Instagram insists that this is not the case, and that its ToS had simply been misinterpretated.
Addressing users on the site’s blog, co-founder Kevin Systrom stressed that Instagram had heard their concerns “loud and clear”, and wanted to reassured users that “it is not our intention to sell your photos”.
“Legal documents are easy to misinterpret” claims Systrom, apparently inferring that we are all idiots or something.
Systrom goes on to tell users that the new terms are merely designed to give Instagram the chance to “experiment with innovative advertising”, without explaining what kind of innovations they might have in mind.
To allay user’s fears, Systrom says that Instagram will now be rewriting its terms and conditions more clearly, so that the company can clarify how user’s images might be used in these so-called innovative ads.
“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”
“Sorry, But I’m not listening.”
Forgive me for being cynical here, but this sounds like one of the lamest, most half-assed, and insulting climb downs I’ve seen in a long time. To suggest that some users “misunderstood” the original terms of service is just patronizing, in my opinion – I mean, what the hell else could they possibly mean?
Here’s the part that spells it out:
“…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.”
I cannot for the life of me come up with any other possible interpretation of that sentence, other than that it plans to sell user content without paying any form of compensation. To suggest that there could be an alternative interpretation of that sentence is insulting mine, and every other Instagram user’s, intelligence. The fact that Systrom was unable to explain what it actually meant in his ‘apology’ only confirms this.
What’s worse is that Instagram didn’t even need to go about things this way. If it really wants to sell user’s images – and it surely does – why not follow a similar licensing like what Flickr does? With Flickr, its users have the option to license their images through Getty Images, meaning that they will be entitled to some compensation in return for their photos being used commercially, or to protect them with full copyright status.
Had they done things this way, Instagram would almost certainly have had a far better response – there must be thousands of users out there who would gladly allow their mages to be used in return for a small sum of money, myself being one of them. Instead, like its parent Facebook, Instagram is just too damn greedy and wants to be able to sell EVERY one your images and keep ALL the money for itself.
I’m looking forward to reading the re-written terms of service and seeing if Instagram can come up with any better way of disguising its true intentions, or if it will merely shelve them for a while till it comes up with a better way to cheat its users.