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Instagram Claims It Has The Right To Use User Photos Without Consent

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

If you use Instagram, kiss the rights to your photos goodbye.

Instagram, the popular photo-sharing web service recently acquired by Facebook, made the statement yesterday that it now has the right to use and sell user photos without notification or payment. As you might expect, the Internet did not take this news very well.

Instagram said today that it has the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification, a dramatic policy shift that quickly sparked a public outcry.

The new intellectual property policy, which takes effect on January 16, comes three months after Facebook completed its acquisition of the popular photo-sharing site. Unless Instagram users delete their accounts before the January deadline, they cannot opt out.

Under the new policy, Facebook claims the perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, which would effectively transform the Web site into the world’s largest stock photo agency. One irked Twitter user quipped that “Instagram is now the new iStockPhoto, except they won’t have to pay you anything to use your images.”

“It’s asking people to agree to unspecified future commercial use of their photos,” says Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That makes it challenging for someone to give informed consent to that deal.”

After the huge public outcry from the announcement, Instagram has since apologized to its users and promised to “remove” the language that caused the outrage. (Notice how they said they’d remove the language, and not the actual policy?)

Stories like this just prove what I’ve been saying all along: anything that you put on the Internet does not become yours anymore. I firmly believe that you post something, like a picture, onto Facebook or Instagram or any kind of social media, you forfeit your rights to that item. Even if the site claims that your photos will be protected, it’s still a public site and it’s really not going to stop any random person from grabbing up that photo and using it however they please.

I’m not at all surprised that Instagram made this kind of announcement. They’re just being honest; you don’t own those photos anymore if you choose to put them on social media.

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