Instagram's new legalese pisses off users

Popular mobile photo-sharing service Instagram just updated its user terms and conditions, after having been snarfed up by deep-pocketed Facebook. The new legalese really sucks: among other things, they're asserting the perpetual right to sell and otherwise commercially exploit your photos, even if you're a teen, which many instagrammers are.

Some are calling it a "suicide note." It'd be interesting to see a chart comparing the rights-creep here to policies at other social media and photo-sharing services.

Some of the offending new bits:

# Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf. # You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

I'm an avid Instagram user, often posting multiple photos per day. We also just launched an "official" Boing Boing feed there, where we share fun photos with a happy mutant vibe. I love Instagram! Love, love, love it! But I hate these new terms and conditions! I quit Facebook because I hated how much disregard Facebook had for my rights as a user. When Facebook bought Instagram, I figured it was only a matter of time before the same happened here.

On the home page, a teaser description read, "It's photo sharing, reinvented. Oh yeah, did we mention it’s free?"

If you're giving up these rights, it's not free. You, dear user, are paying. In his post on the Instagram T&C debacle, Alexis Madrigal arguesthis is exactly why you should want to pay for software and services.

So, fellow instagrammer? When January 16 comes—or, hey, sooner—assuming they don't respond to the backlash by rolling back the rights-creep, will you stay or will you go?

* Bonus round: the clickbaitiest headline I've seen. And it worked; here I am, clicking.


  1. I really like Instagram, but I was worried this would happen when facebook bought them.  I don’t have a facebook account, and I don’t want one.  Well, it looks like my instagram account is now essentially a facebook account.

    1. It’s an extension of the Facebook EUA, which essentially makes anything you upload property of Facebook. Which is why I never joined Facebook, either. I have less “friends”, but I think my privacy and property rights are worth it!

      1. There are other places to put your instagram photos, and much cooler apps that blow instagram out of the water (I personally like hipstamatic). Facebook has been of very little use to me (except for the goruck challenge – i made an account, used it for the grc, then deleted it afterwards). My actual real friends have learned how to email me pics they think I’ll like. I’m closer to the people I know and like, and I don’t miss the rest.

        1. But Hipstamatic doesn’t have social sharing, right? In other words, its just a camera app.

          The great thing about Instagram is that you can follow your friends without them having to email or whatever the pics. You can say you prefer the email method, but that’s not exactly a modern way to share things, and hardly efficient or even comparable.

          And that’s not even getting into the other modern features of Instagram like hashtag searching and all that. For example I went on the AIDS Lifecycle bike ride from San Francisco to LA this year, and it was really fun to search Instagram for #ALC2012 and see lots of different perspectives on the same ride.

          1. Hipstamatic is just a camera app. After I take pictures, I can choose what to do with them, and share them anywhere I like, google, email, twitter, flickr… etc.

            As for seeing other people’s pictures, I don’t have to be on instagram to search it. I can still see those other perspectives if I like. And as far as a cellphone is concerned, I use Hipstamatic on an ipod touch, and my provider has warned me that they will soon drop 2G coverage, and that I will really, really need to get a new phone… But that has more to do with not needing a phone I can’t use for most of the day – they’re not allowed at work – than desire.

  2. Not much of a surprise, really. This kind of stuff happens all the time. Never trust a web service… well, unless it’s mine and then you can trust me. Right, you guys?

    1.  What? people overreacting to TOS contracts they don’t understand and saying they are going to quit the service forever because of them?  Yup, happens all the time.  At least once every 6 months for the last 8 years or so.

  3. Instagram is an awesomely simple service. It is a bummer that now any image you or I post may end on the cover of a magazine or billboard or product, and Facebook would get paid for it but we won’t. If this is not appropriation of rights I don’t know what is. Similarly, a typewriter company could say that they have the right to publish and profit from anything you write on their typewirters.

    1. To play devils advocate, the typewriter company is not storing and offering sharing services on what you write. Plus they actually sold you the typewriter in the first place, so there’s that too.

  4. I’m sure FB lawyers are all up in this, but if our kids are not on their own legally able to give their consent to this crap, how is it that they can attest to their parents’ knowledge and permission?

    1. “Because someone legally responsible had to click the box, can you prove it wasn’t their parents?  Also, your Honor, I saw your new Jag in the parking lot, British Racing Green looks good on you.”

      1. Oh, please. Why imply bribery and corruption of the justice system, when the plaintiffs in this case would be individuals and all FB needs to do is outlast them in court — a feat it can manage simultaneously with a significant portion of the world’s population?

          1. In that case the pockets would be deep on both sides of the argument. There’s little that’s uniquely evil or bribery-enabling about FB, to the best of my knowledge. It’s not Walmart, after all.

  5. “You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”
    I think ads should be labelled. Period.

    I’m okay with my images being used if they’re a part of a screenshot of the program in use or something, but this overly-broad wording is shit. They need to be more specific and they deserve this shitstorm because they weren’t.

  6. I like(d) Instagram a lot, but one of the problems with running a service that’s based around sharing what is, usually, pretty ephemeral and transitory content is people then find it _very easy_ to move elsewhere if you mess them about. There are plenty of ways to put pictures on the net from your phone, look at other people’s pictures, and chat about them.

  7. Just closed my Instagram account – I don’t think I’ll miss it and definitely don’t want to fund Facebook via another pipeline.

    1. I did too, earlier this morning. I had a feeling this was coming with Facebook buying them, but it’s still disappointing. 

  8. Although I don’t care if my photographs are used without my permission in Facebook and Instagram ads, I do care if the people I photograph are used without their permission in Facebook and Instagram ads. 

  9. I do like Instagram. However, if I upload something and it later appears in an ad and my wife were to recognize it as a picture I took, she will ask me for the money I got for it and then I’d say “I didn’t get paid” and she’d say “oh you lying bastard” and be real mad because she’d think I was lying and cut off my weendis. 

    Therefore, I think that Instagram should have a weendis so they can get theirs cut off instead.

    1. According to their TOS, the poster is responsible for the content and legal repercussions, so they get the money and you still get your weendis cut off.

      I mean, the TOS doesn’t specifically call out your weendis, but it probably should.

  10. PLEASE, before you all go deleting your accounts and thumping your chest, consider the possibility that the people reporting on this are wrong, they are not lawyers and they don’t understand how to read TOUs, and Instagram is not “committing suicide.”  The new Terms of Use says very clearly that it does NOT claim control of your intellectual property – it only claims a license (as is necessary to display your IP to others, and to make money off of advertisements situated next to your IP).  The license seems to only allow Instagram to display your content, not others.  The new TOU looks like it was drafted simply to allow better collaboration between Facebook and Instagram, and I think any claims that Instagram wants to have possession of all your photos so they can sell them to magazines or put them on billboards seems pretty ridiculous if you think of it from a business perspective.  After all, Instagram is first and foremost a social network, one that just happens to provide filters and storage space for photos.  Alienating their users would destroy the value in the company.  (Note I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice).

    1. I understand what you’re driving at here, but this is exactly what’s wrong with TOUs — if I have to pay a lawyer to understand what I’m agreeing to, then the system is broken.

      1. It’s a legal document, so it’s written in legaleze.  By your logic all laws would be invalid and no-one would have to pay taxes. 

        “Tech” bloggers generally get most of the tech in the articles they write dead wrong, so you shouldn’t be surprised when they get the legal aspects of it completely wrong.

  11. This is the same language that Facebook and Twitter uses, just in case you guys want another account to delete. 


    “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”


    “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service,”

    also Twitter:

    “By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

  12. For me, Instagram was a thing of JOY. Sharing pics w/ people in Brazil, Thailand, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Mexico. Never felt so GLOBAL. But this reinforces the wired age adage: if you’re not paying for a service, you are the product….

  13. The site has a lot of easy to digest comparisons of different TOS of service for copyright and other matters.

  14. The entire point of Facebook purchasing Instagram was to kill competition.  They’re just finishing the job.

    One of these days Americans are going to learn that whether it’s technology, radio, television or the Internet, consolidation hurts everyone except the corporatists at the very top of the food chain.

    1. I did just that. But they have almost the same license I think. Still, not facebook tho so it’s better in my opinion. Sadly, Flickr isn’t anything that Instagram used to be. I like the phone only interface and sort of even enjoyed the exclusivity of it when they only had a platform for Iphones.

  15. points out that Instagram’s old ToS also claimed an unlimited license to use your stuff – the new terms just make it clearer.  The only substantive change is that paid ads will no longer be labeled as such, which, while in violation of net best practices, isn’t (may not be) illegal.  Facebook has always claimed such a license, too.

    1.  The difference being, that in Instagram’s case, the entire raison d’etre is photographs, unlike Facebook where you might not sign up specifically to annoy people with pictures of your food, your cat, or your cat’s food.

  16. I just sent the following to Instagram in response:

    Hello Instagram folks. Please know that I LOVE Instagram but if the reports I am reading in and elsewhere are right regarding your new terms of service, I am afraid I will not only terminate my account, but use my position as a web blogger and online culture commentator to encourage my colleagues, coworkers, subscribers and FB friends to do the same.

    I am referring to the following:

    ” 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.”

    Please understand-I am a multi-media professional and can in no way, shape, or form allow a third party to exploit my work–however casual–without compensating me fairly.

    I would rather pay a small subscription fee or one-time charge to use Instagram. Dotcoms have to make money, this is understood. But for me to give away my intellectual property rights and/or digital media rights simply for the privilege of making my photos look like old Polaroids is asking far too much.

    Not only will I delete my Instagram account and not permit this, but I will also loudly and annoyingly encourage everyone I know to do the same.

    Sorry, Instagram, but some us know the value of our work and even if we’re not actively trying to sell these images, we certainly are NOT willing to let them be exploited by third parties for no compensation whatsoever. Charge me a subscription fee, ask me to pay for an app, whatever–I am very willing to do this. I’m not willing to stand still for that other foolish thing you want to do.

    Have a nice day, please reconsider, and better luck next time.

    Joe Wallace

  17. As soon as I get home, I’m dropping Instagram quicker than Facebook stock.  My GNex auto-saves all Instagram photos so I don’t have to use an online service.  I’ve moved much of my stuff over to Flickr for the time being, and have also checked out apps like Snapseed and BeFunky (who are offering free premium accounts to people who post a pic of their closed Instagram account).

    I hate Facebook but I need it for various groups that I belong to, or I wouldn’t have it.  I loved Instagram ’cause it was fun and the community was great.  This is too much though.

  18. If they are using these for advertising does that mean they will have to get a model release for each person pictured?.   

  19. The problem here is the model.  I don’t care if they want to slip a little ad over the bottom edge of my photo, because that’s “paying” for their hosting of my photos.  But as soon as “my” photos become “their” photos, they have stolen from me — literally — as I wanted to use a sharing service, not a charity service.  So, in addition to my artwork, they want to use my likeness as well, to potentially peddle products that I either did not endorse or receive compensation for endorsing.

  20. I really wish the internet wasn’t this easily duped. The controversial section of the revised ToS doesn’t allow them anything they weren’t already allowed under the current ToS. Please BB, do some basic fact checking before perpetuating mass hysteria!

Comments are closed.