Instagram says it Does Not Want to Steal and Sell Your Photos

Instagram caused a viral outcry yesterday when they updated their privacy and terms to basically say that they have the right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification. Social networks were exploding with posts from users who claimed they would cancel their Instagram accounts and that they were outraged at this new policy change.

However, Instagram later issued an apology saying that’s not what they meant at all and they would remove the language from their legal terms and that they have no intention of using our photos. Is that enough to calm the storm?

In a blog post yesterday afternoon, Chief Executive Kevin Systrom said it’s “our mistake that this language is confusing” and that the company is “working on updated language.”

But could this damage control be too little too late for Instagram? A lot of users are already quitting, citing the fact that they would try to sneak in such a policy as their reasoning for abandoning the platform.

Anderson Cooper’s tweet about the incident has over 5,000 retweets. In fact, people are still retweeting it and commenting on it and not aware that Instagram has officially updated/changed the policy.
I’d bet it’s safe to say a great deal of those retweets were from people who first heard of the news from Cooper.

The original story posted by CNet garnered a great deal of attention (and other posts that would spin off from there) but it was updated promptly when Instagram issued their statement about changing the verbiage of the policy change.

Originally CNET reported:

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.”

This sent the Internet in an uproar. We saw an Internet revolt like no other before this in history. Users were angry, demanded answers from Instagram and also threatened to close their accounts. This opened the door for many competitors like Flickr and Blipfoto to invite people to use their services instead.

By early afternoon, Instagram had posted an official response to the controversy saying “Thank you, and we’re listening.”

This official blog post explains:

Yesterday we introduced a new version of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service that will take effect in thirty days. These two documents help communicate as clearly as possible our relationship with the users of Instagram so you understand how your data will be used, and the rules that govern the thriving and active Instagram community. Since making these changes, we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean.

I’m writing this today to let you know we’re listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion. As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.

Legal documents are easy to misinterpret. So I’d like to address specific concerns we’ve heard from everyone:

And then goes on to breakdown the policy sections that had users upset. They were in short saying, “Legal jargon is hard to read and we didn’t mean it like that” but some users are taking it that they most definitely DID mean it like that and only backpedaled when they saw how many users they were going to lose due to this policy.

Privacy online is a VERY important issue- one that companies like Instagram need to respect and take seriously. Incidents like this are all it takes to lose the trust of the masses and turn a very good platform into a broken has-been.

What do you think- unfortunate misinterpretation or after the fact change to avoid further revolt?

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