A Closer Look at Instagram Terms of Service

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Back in September, it was announced that Facebook had purchased Instagram for roughly $1 billion (chump change for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has a net worth close to $10 billion). With news of the acquisition, most fans of the app realized that changes to privacy settings and app functionality were inevitable.

Instagram’s new Terms of Service (rolling out January 16, 2013) have many users worked up over privacy settings. A lot of users have vowed to delete their accounts and boycott the app once the terms go into effect in a few weeks.

Let’s take a look at the sections of the Terms of Service that have so many people upset…

New Instagram terms:
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.”

…and compare them with their parent company, Facebook.

Current Facebook terms:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Pay special attention to the bold items in the agreements above.

The news stories and blog posts about Instagram’s new terms tried to make it seem like this was unspeakable in the social media world. Many people are also quick to blame Facebook for the changes, but not entirely rightfully so. Here’s a similar section from Twitter’s Terms of Service.

Current Twitter terms:
“You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

Looks familiar, right? The social networks might as well have copied and pasted these sections word for word. Moral of the story: Facebook isn’t necessarily the “bad guy” in this situation.

Another argument over Instagram’s new Terms of Service include their right to use your photos, username, and information in paid advertisements, without your knowledge and without having to pay you for it:

“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.”

Sounds pretty awful. But before you delete your account immediately and vow to use only Twitter, take a look at another section from the Twitter terms of service:

“You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.”

To sum it up… Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all social media giants. Users fuel their programs, and their success depends on keeping those users happy and content. However, they also need to keep their businesses profitable, and they are usually willing to do whatever it takes to do so.

What do you think? Will you be deleting your Instagram account when the new terms begin on January 16th? Why or why not? Leave your comments below!

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