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 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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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.