Posting Instagram alternatives is not the solution to terms of service changes

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 18, 2012
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Facebook

By now you have probably read about Instagram's Terms of Service changes that go live on January 16, 2013 which is about a month from today on. Reddit is full of Instagram news from all over the web at the moment that either rephrase what the terms of services change means for users or try to provide users with alternatives to Instagram.

In short, Instagram from January 16 gets a worldwide non-exclusive license - free of charge - for all photos that users upload to the service. They can sell the photos, use them in advertisement or use them for anything else they can come up with, without telling or compensating the creator of the photo.

The terms of services make this very clear:

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, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service's Privacy Policy, available here:

Instagram users are up in arms against this policy change and rightfully though. What may happen for instance is that one of your photos, maybe even showing you, a family member or pet, is used for advertisement. Since you do not have any say in the matter you may end up advertising a product that you do not agree with at all. Everyone else who sees the ad on the other hand may assume that you endorse the product.

Some websites have started to post articles that list the top X Instagram alternatives. While it may make sense to switch the company in first place to avoid the policy change, and maybe even download and then delete all of your photos on Instagram, it does not really prevent the alternative to make the same change.

What we have here is a fundamental problem of the Internet where users give up rights as soon as they share information on the Internet. It does not really matter if the information are shared on sites like Facebook, Google+ or Instagram, as soon as information are published, there is a chance that the data is being used by third parties.

I have the feeling that most Internet users are unaware of the dangers of publishing data on the Internet, that's at least the only explanation I can come up with why so many share information publicly that I might not even tell all of my closest friends.

In the case of Instagram, it is not really the fault of users of the service, as they did not have any say in the company's terms of services change. There are however enough examples where users decided to ignore terms of services or do not mind them at all, even if they put users at a disadvantage.

What feels a bit strange in regards to Instagram is that the company claims on the official blog that "nothing has changed about [a users] photo ownership or who can see them". While this may be technically correct, it still means that photos are used for a purpose the user has no say in nor would necessarily agree with if informed about it.

The official Android app displays the change in your stream which at least means that the company does not try to sneak the change past its userbase.

What's your take on the change and are you affected by it?

Update: Instagram has published a reply in which the company states that the company has removed the "can be used in advertisement" part from the agreement.

The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.


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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

  9. sean conner said on September 27, 2023 at 6:21 am

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