Instagram's Fake Changes To Your Image Rights

Sneaky bastards over at Facebook/Instagram. I must admit. Very cleverly done. People complain. They appear as if they did change the rules favorably and everyone declares victory.

Instagram Fast Beautiful Liars

They lied. They didn’t. And you should tell everyone about this.

Sorry guys, this is far from over. Let me tell you the story. The other day I got an email from Instagram that read:

Our community has grown by many millions of people since we wrote our original Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. As we announced in December, we have updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. These policies also now take into account the feedback we received from the Instagram Community. We’re emailing you to remind you that, as we announced last month, these updated policies will be in effect as of January 19th, 2013.

You can read our blog post that highlights some of the key updates. And remember, these updates don’t change the fact that you own your photos that you post on Instagram, and our privacy controls work just as they did before.

Thank you, The Instagram Team

But here is the ugly truth. Except that they grant you the generous right that you own your content – nothing changed.

Take a look at Instagram’s newly and favorably revised rules. As I said, nothing changed. See the bold and underlined portions.

  1. 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, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.
  2. Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.
  3. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.
  4. You represent and warrant that: (i) you own the Content posted by you on or through the Service or otherwise have the right to grant the rights and licenses set forth in these Terms of Use; (ii) the posting and use of your Content on or through the Service does not violate, misappropriate or infringe on the rights of any third party, including, without limitation, privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, trademark and/or other intellectual property rights; (iii) you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owed by reason of Content you post on or through the Service; and (iv) you have the legal right and capacity to enter into these Terms of Use in your jurisdiction.
  5. The Service contains content owned or licensed by Instagram (“Instagram Content”). Instagram Content is protected by copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret and other laws, and, as between you and Instagram, Instagram owns and retains all rights in the Instagram Content and the Service. You will not remove, alter or conceal any copyright, trademark, service mark or other proprietary rights notices incorporated in or accompanying the Instagram Content and you will not reproduce, modify, adapt, prepare derivative works based on, perform, display, publish, distribute, transmit, broadcast, sell, license or otherwise exploit the Instagram Content.


Instagram may choose to license your images of landmarks, your friends, other people, the kissing couple in the park. They may use it for advertising without telling you. They will not pay you for it and have right to use your images for anything they want. Best of all you are liable if a problem occurs with a third party, a copyright or other legal issue as a result of that use.

Please spread the word through your blogs, Facebook pages, LinkedIn, and everywhere you can get support. Email them. The only email I could find is this:

Create a firestorm on Facebook. We have to change this. It is outrageous. Are you on board? Then do something. NOW.



  1. Tim Olsen says:


  2. Instagram is just the latest offender.
    I think that most of the Social Media platforms are out to " steal " our images and give us no compensation.
    This is probably inevitable. To fight it would be like .... spitting into the wind.
    The horse is already out of the barn...let's deal with it !
    I want every image that I generate to have my contact information embedded permanently in the metadata...or even the image itself.

    It's been said that Facebook and other sites will wipe the metadata on all photos posted on their sites. I'd like the camera companies to stand up for photographers and make this impossible.

    Let's turn a violation into a benefit. If I originate an image...that ends up travelling around the world and appears in many places....I want credit for that !...I want to be able to be contacted by that user for other work.
    I consider images that I have posted as being out of my control...they are free samples that I have given away....I want recognition...I want referrals... I'd like some remuneration...but am not holding my breath !

  3. There has been much confusion and disagreement with the announced "instagram" changes in their terms of service and policies. So much so that instagram announced changes in these terms based upon the dissatisfaction of its users. However, certain terms still remain. The most contentious is this. By agreeing to these terms you grant instagram "By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use" to all content posted by users of their site.

    On the surface this seems like an egregious violation of the content poster's rights. When they addressed this issue their claim was that they would never actually do this. We will see.

    I would like to address two other issues. The first on the table is the posting of other people's intellectual property. Posting someone else's photos without permission, acknowledgement and compensation is a violation of the creator's copyright. This is clearly stated in the instagram terms of service and policies. However, as any user of instagram knows such violations are pervasive in epic proportions. These violations are not as anyone should know limited to instagram alone. They are an internet epidemic. I have even seen violations of said copyright on a certain "major" news site where they pull images willy-nilly from flickr. On that note however, they seem to have recently stopped that practice.

    The final issue to bring to the table is one of legal indemnification of instagram in cases of user violation in the posting of protected materials. They claim indemnification should any suit might arise in a user's violation of these terms. While this point has been tested in court on several occasions the language still remains.

    The onus of the violation falls directly on the shoulders of the user who has placed protected content on the instagram site. In other words, "post it at your own risk."

    This is all well and good. It provides instagram with certain rights and protections. However, this is what freaked out the users of instagram particularly the first issue addressed to which they responded that "they would never no that (sic)."

    Needless to say the language remains. However, if one investigates further they will find that most content posting sites contain the exact same language (though stated in a variety of legalese). Among the most popular are Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, Pinterest and Reddit. Apart from the "sale of content" these terms are also found in each and every internet service provider's terms of service and policies.

    In the end, you can fight instagram on this but this is a boilerplate contract (which is not likely to change) inherent to user provided content sites and as a provider you can either follow the rules or face the consequences. As an actual creator of content discussed you have more options but in the end I would say good luck resolving them.

  4. Social media sites aren't inherently evil & out to get it. But be smart about it. If you are going to post your photographs anywhere on the internet, put a watermark and/or your URL on it in an obnoxious, non-croppable spot. It'll be less likely to be stolen by theives. And better yet, only put up a few on those social media sites and link back to your website where people can see the rest.

  5. Thank you Beate for the updated info on Instagram. There is something very fishy going on behind this Instagram deal. My guess is that someone, probably Getty, has offered them an amazing deal if they (Getty or whoever) can gain access to the Instagram Collection of images. I'm guessing it's a deal something similar to the sneaky disgusting arrangement Getty just signed with Google. More info on that here:

    It's hard to believe the pressure currently going on to acquire FREE or nearly FREE images. Actually, that is a stupid statement on my part. I can believe it, based on the fact that I earned a serious income from selling images for nearly 25 years. But once the cat got our of the bag, where clients no longer had to pay for photography, that income stream has virtually evaporated. I offer this historical perspective to try and impress on those who don't know, the fact that photography is VALUABLE! That's why these big companies like, Getty, Google and now Instagram are doing all they can to get there hands on as much visual cash as they can steal. That's what these deals are all about. CASH, and they're stealing it. But only if photographers allow them to.

    Daniel J. Cox

  6. Elizabeth says:

    If you don't like Instagram's policies then don't use their free service.

  7. it ain't right !

  8. Kayla says:

    Come on folks - so they didn't change anything and we were ALL, OK with that before this little uproar, so they "don't change anything" and now we all get up in arms? These are the same terms for Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Photobucket, Flickr, 500px, etc. Post your own original content, not someone elses or YOU could get sued, and they hold the right to use liability free your images, read the TOU and TC of any image sharing software or social media website you use, you'll be shocked to see they are all the same!

  9. Mkabir says:

    I think we should be more careful while using these social media Platforms . They are letting us use their facilities and obviously they are going to take their share out of it , now question is is it worth ? Actually it will depend upon the individual.
    But one thing is for sure many of dont spare the time to read the Terms and Conditions laid down by the provider, now time has come that we behave more maturely and precisely .

  10. Mike Malloy says:

    I decided to leave Instagram and move my account to Streamzoo prior to the January 18th date that would pre-exempt previous posted photos from the new TOS. I’ve found inspiration from many photos posted and made some friends, and I will miss that. I post images that I don't show in my commercial portfolio. Hopefully some unique captures of a moment that have intrinsic value only in the simple joy of imagery. I love the feedback from the followers. But, I cannot support an organization that believes it can use my hard work for their private gain. I also do this out of respect for my fellow photographers, too.

    The obvious difference is the quantity of users, Instagram has many, many, more. But, the constant spamming to 'buy' followers, is also becoming a nuisance on Instagram. Foremost in my mind, Instagram's Terms of Service are intolerable.

    The Instagram TOS are posted in the article above.

    Now, compare this to Streamzoo: “Content Ownership - All rights of uploaded content by our users remain the property of our users and those rights can in no means be sold or used in a commercial way by Company or affiliated third party partners without consent from the user.”

    I do understand that these services must have a business model to monetize their respective ventures. I do hope that a model will come about that is valuable to both the inventors and the users of these services. Why not stream an ad in there for every 10th photo, just as Facebook does currently in the timeline? But to outright say, "This is ours...for any use we want.", isn't acceptable.

    Thanks for listening. If you wish to follow me on Streamzoo, my user name is Malloy_Photo.

  11. Cindy Brown says:

    I read point 2 to mean that they can post advertising on any member's Instagram page without labeling it as advertising, instead of meaning they could use images posted by members to advertise Instagram. But I suppose a lawyer would be better able to translate that one.

  12. Dorit Thies says:

    I have been on the verge of leaving Instagram and FB and I will never ever trust them. They use us and it is all about profit-making for them. Their whole concept was to make money from the very beginning and what better way to throw a big party and to let people be themselves. But, I believe that if we want to be part of this world and in the business as photographers we have to participate and allow only certain images to work for us. We have to be smart on what we allow to let out. Usually, for us photographers, "Behind the scenes" material can be very enticing and people love this stuff. Will Instagram want to use these images? Be my guest. They are usually not well lit and not the best images. I think we have to become more sneaky and creative as well without giving our soul and our hard earned content away. We are all in the same boat and have to learn how to make FB, Instagram and Pinterest work for us. Of course I rather share one of my greatest shots and I have in the past. I worry about them and it sounds like even if I have registered my images at the Copyright office, that does not help me anymore. FB and Instagram are great tools and a lot of my clients are part of the system. But we have to be responsible. I am not the perfect example myself and we need to give our team members exact instructions on what is OK to post and what is NOT. Because we are the boss. I recently worked with a new team that started posting my beauty images all over FB and Instagram, after I had spend many hours and a good amount of $$$ to make them look the way they are. That has to stop. I will place watermarks again on images that have value and that I allow my team members to use. Before every shoot my team will sign an agreement on set that no images can be used on Social media without my consent.
    Imagery is being diluted more and more by people eager to show their work for their own satisfaction and not caring about the rules or protecting fellow photographers or the photographers they work with. My hope is that good visual content will always be in demand, just don't share it on Social Media.

  13. David McGhee says:

    Yeah, its very outrageous! I agree with Nathan below...this is just one part of the equation which amounts to a land grab for free unpaid content to profit from. I have had my work used before by major media outlets with no permission and called them on it. Only that got them to do the right thing. We as professionals must call instagram and anyone else and give a huge push back to them. Only in that way things change. LIke anything else if you let them get away with it...they will.

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