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6 Things Everyone Should Know About Instagram

It has now been three months since Instagram’s magical month of April, in which they both launched their Android App and were bought by Facebook. Now, Instagram has more than 80 Million registered users and counting. Chances are, if you don’t use it yourself, you’ve at least heard about it or seen Instagram pictures on your Facebook feed.

Do you use Instagram? I do. Did you read their Terms of Service? Probably not.

Instagram, like many other image-sharing platforms, needs you to grant them the right to display your images, or else they would be violating your copyright by displaying your pictures in the app. Obvious? Maybe, but there’s more to it. Allow me to elaborate…

1. You grant them special permission

Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the Instagram Services. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels…

Do you still own your pictures? Well, yes, kind of. It’s like you bought a brand new car with your hard-earned money, and it’s 100% yours, except that this friend of yours can come and take it for a spin any time he wants. I might as well add that he can use it however he wants. At the moment, they only use user pictures in seemingly harmless instances like blog posts and whatnot, so it may be true that the chances of Instagram exploiting user content for profit aren’t that high. That clause, however, is still there. Not to mention that if you’re on Instagram, you already agreed to it.

2. Not unless your account is set to ‘Private’

…except Content not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.

Phew. Those of you that are on your privacy game are set. The above point does not apply if your account (and subsequently, your photos) are set to ‘Private’. But wait! Before you go and change your privacy settings, keep reading, there’s more.

3. So many opportunities… for you to get sued

You represent and warrant that: (i) you own the Content posted by you on or through the Instagram Services or otherwise have the right to grant the license set forth in this section, (ii) the posting and use of your Content on or through the Instagram Services does not violate the privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, contract rights, intellectual property rights or any other rights of any person, and (iii) the posting of your Content on the Site does not result in a breach of contract between you and a third party. You agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of Content you post on or through the Instagram Services.

In other words, DO NOT TAKE ANY PICTURE FROM THE INTERNET AND POST IT IN YOUR INSTAGRAM. Unless, of course, you own the rights to that image. Some people also tend to think that this is totally OK if you give credit in your comments to the person/company that does own the rights to that image, but that’s not necessarily true. While yes, it is true that most people won’t be upset if  you give them credit in your post, they can still sue you. It’s not common practice, but it is probably best you play it safe. Why? Look at the next point.

4. You wanna read the last sentence in that quote again? Ouch.

You agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of Content you post on or through the Instagram Services.

In other words, the people over at Instagram have their backs covered. They won’t waste a penny if you get in trouble. This is why you don’t want to get sued (other than, well, obvious reasons). If the entity that sues you decides to include Instagram in the lawsuit (which they probably will since it was their service you used), it is my understanding from this clause that you could end up paying for your lawyer AND Instagram’s lawyer. That is, in addition to any damages you owe for copyright infringement, should you be found guilty. Ouch? OUCH.

5. If you want to get credit for that pic, don’t upload it

Don’t take it from me, take it from Amanda of I Am Baker. She recently wrote a post on her blog about how she found accounts on Instagram who had taken photos from her website and posted them as their own. She didn’t get credit anywhere, and one of the pictures was even uploaded to an Instagram contest.

This was one of pictures stolen from Amanda and posted on Instagram (obviously, the ‘stolen’ part was added later). Used here with permission from Iambaker.net.

The pictures got upwards of 24,000 “hearts” on Instagram. That’s 24,000 people that could’ve been directed to Amanda’s website so see her work, and were not. Long story short, she contacted both Instagram and the accounts that posted her picture to no avail. Instagram never responded, and luckily for the owners of the infringing accounts, Amanda is a nice person.

6. Webstagram, ever heard of it?

Mobile isn’t the only way to view Instagram pictures. Web.stagra.com makes it really easy for people to search through both tags and users. So, if you think the trouble of searching through Instagram on an iPhone is going to deter someone from finding your copyright-infringing image, think again. If your name on Instagram is your real name, that picture you posted of you and your friends blackout drunk might easily make it to the first page of a Google Image search of your name. You can thank Web.stagram for that.


For the record, Gerald and I both like Instagram (Gerald is alarmingly addicted). This post isn’t intended to deter anyone from joining Instagram, only to inform about what you’re agreeing to and best practices to follow when using the platform. Instagram is awesome, though, check it out if you haven’t done so already.



About Álvaro J. Soltero

Álvaro is Co-Founder and Managing Editor of The Social U. He is currently a Senior at Tufts University majoring in Cognitive & Brain Science and minoring in Entrepreneurial Leadership. He just spent his summer interning for LEWIS Pulse, a social media PR agency in San Francisco, and he is currently a blogger and inbound marketing intern for a Boston startup called Leaf.

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