What’s Missing from the Instagram Rights Discussion

December 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

Instagram is getting a lot of attention today for a change in its terms of service that gives the company (now owned by Facebook) the ability to include users’ photos in advertisements. TechHive has an overview, and here’s the wording in question:

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, 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.”

(It’s also worth noting that Instagram has had these rights for a while, worded differently, as Lauren Crabbe writes at DPreview.com.)

People are rightly upset that their photos can be used for someone else’s gain, even though the terms of service (which most people don’t read) grant that right. As others have pointed out on Twitter today:

What I don’t get is why Instagram (and Facebook, Google, and others) doesn’t cut people in for a slice of whatever fee a company paid to use the photo. It’s not impossible; they can track ad impressions, so they can certainly track how much use a photo is getting. I expect the amounts would be ridiculously small, but so what? People who really care about getting paid for their images are pulling them from the services now, and the people who want to keep using it can make a few bucks every quarter.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll bail on Instagram. Now that Flickr is finally getting attention from its parent Yahoo (the new Flickr 2.0 app for iPhone is quite nice), it’s a good alternative. (Here’s my Flickr photostream.) I was late to the Instagram app, and I mostly use it because of the convenience of shooting and sharing. If I could get paid a little for posting pictures of waffles, I certainly wouldn’t mind.

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