Some Thoughts On Instagram, Rights And Free Storage.

Over the last few weeks there has been much written and ranted about Instagrams proposed changed to their terms of use (recently updated again after the original changes which were due to come into effect on January 16th 2013), in particular focusing on the section that seems to suggest that Instagram can sell your photographs without paying you anything.

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,”

The Instagram community was suitably outraged and many people went for the knee jerk approach and immediately deleted their accounts (even though they had until 16th January to do this). I thought about the changes and how they might affect me. My first thought was I’d be annoyed if someone sold my photographs and made money out of them without me getting a cut but there’s more to it than that.

Second thought was if I cared about the potential to monetise my Instagram photographs (or any of the photographs I take for that matter) then maybe instead of complaining when someone else finds a way to make some money from them I should get off my backside and work a little harder at making money out of them myself.

Next thought was in all honesty how much chance is there of anyone making anything substantial from what amounts to not much more that a few shots of things, places, signs, people etc that have caught my eye whilst I’ve been out on my travels and would have been a much more mundane photograph without a filter or two and a bit of tilt shift now and again, endless photographs of my cat and a history of what I ate last time I went to a restaurant or cooked a meal that I hadn’t cremated?

Lastly, and arguably most importantly do we pay to use Instagram? No. We’re all happy to use the filters, to use the storage and show of our shots but we don’t expect to pay for it – a little selfish and maybe just a little naive? I can’t imagine that setting up Instagram, developing the site, the filters, the servers etc (even with facebook finance) has ever been easy or free and yet no one seems to want to give anything back.

Predictably (in my opinion) Kevin Systrom co-founder of Instagram issued a statement last week which appears to be a turnaround on the original proposed changes (or maybe it’s just the same thing without the legal speak so we all know exactly where we stand?) here’s what he wrote on the Instagram blog.

And here’s a quick extract ref the controversial advertising issue.

Advertising on Instagram From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. 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. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

The new new terms come into effect from 19th January 2013 and I’ll be keeping my Instagram account. It’s a bit of fun and if I ever feel I’ve taken any work that I may be worth selling then quite simply I won’t post it on Instagram, or Facebook or any other free to host, public site because unless you cover your photographs with big ugly watermarks it doesn’t matter how much you claim ‘all rights reserved’ as soon as it’s out there in the digital domain anyone can use it if they really want and you will spend a lot of your life (and money?) trying to pursue breach of copyright. If it matter to you protect it, passwords, watermarks or just keep it offline, if you want it to be seen prepare for it to be used. The best you can hope for as far as I can see, is that people might be decent enough to ask, to credit and if there’s a few quid to be made, to share it with you.

(cartoon from


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