There has been a bit of hysteria on the net over Instagram’s new monetization-oriented terms of service, and some users have decided to quit over it. (If you’re not familiar, Instagram is a mobile-oriented photo sharing service.) I thought I’d actually read the new TOS and attempt to make sense of it myself. There are some interesting passages:
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…
In other words, though your photos always “belong” to you, you agree to allow Instagram to use them however they please, including allowing other entities to do so. I’d not be surprised if one of the monetization schemes was to become some sort of crowd-sourced stock photo library.
Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
This is a bit mysterious. I can think of a few possibilities. One, Instagram might simply sell targeted marketing information about its users to other entities, e.g. “Erikrebooted prefers photos of peculiar artwork, handsome men, and robots.” This isn’t exactly a newsworthy action to take. Two, Instagram might license advertisers to use your photos and username, based on content or location, for advertising purposes. For example, were I to pose ironically with a Ronald McDonald statue, I could potentially become a McDonalds’ poster boy, despite not having eaten a Big Mac since the 1990′s.
You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.
This, at least, is quite obvious in meaning. If Instagram ends up doing something like Twitter’s sponsored tweets, they won’t necessarily tell you when that’s what you’re looking at. Especially if you’re a marketing target.
While these changes were certainly made in the name of soulless Business, they aren’t quite enough for me to cancel my account. Yet.
However, I’ll definitely think two or three times about what I post there.
Update: Instragram has released a statement denying plans to sell users’ photos or use them in advertisements.