Update: in what may be a death knell for Instagram, National Geographic just announced it would stop posting images to Instagram.
A day after an epic backlash to what many understood was a change in Instagram's TOS, which would see users vacate property and ownership rights over their photos shared on the popular social network - a concept clearly spelled out - and hand these over to Facebook (which recently acquired the Photoshop filters at the backbone of Instagram's business model for an ungodly amount), leading to a furious and perfectly expected exodus of users closing their Instagram accounts, here is the company's panicked response, in which it explains it did not mean what it meant. To wit:"To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos." What about selling photos accidentally? Which explains the legalese, because while it may not be "our intention", it is no longer expressly prohibited, is it?
Is it too little too late? And can the company convince the millions that have already left, and the further tens of millions on the fences, that its mission, like Google, is also"to do no evil"? We will find out in the next several days when Instagram's competitors are furiously collating the latest Comscore and various other traffic data to pronounce the early death of the photo sharing service over something as "trivial" as a change in the Terms of Service which many had hoped would fly under the radar unnoticed by anyone.
From Instragram's blog (highlights ours)
Thank you, and we’re listening
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:
Advertising on Instagram From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.
To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.
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 likes 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.
Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.
I always want you to feel comfortable sharing your photos on Instagram and we will always work hard to foster and respect our community and go out of our way to support its rights.
Privacy Settings Nothing has changed about the control you have over who can see your photos. If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you. We hope that this simple control makes it easy for everyone to decide what level of privacy makes sense.
I am grateful to everyone for their feedback and that we have a community that cares so much. We need to be clear about changes we make — this is our responsibility to you. One of the main reasons these documents don’t take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now, is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns. You’ve done that and are doing that, and that will help us provide the clarity you deserve. Thank you for your help in making sure that Instagram continues to thrive and be a community that we’re all proud of. Please stay tuned for updates coming soon.
Kevin Systrom co-founder, Instagram
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In other words Instragram may not sell your photo outright. Instead, it will contextualize it, re-package it, and use it to sell advertising, without giving you a penny. Oh, and while it is certainly not Instagram intention to do so, it may still sell it...
All better now?