Thursday, January 10, 2013

Small Print Words Have BIG Impact for Instagram and Its Users

The big impact of those  fine print words in user agreements on internet sites was demonstrated recently by Instagram, the photo sharing site.

As noted in several previous posts, the terms of user agreements have a big impact on a users intellectual property rights, whether for written words or images.  That little "click" users make agreeing to terms of service creates a binding contract. And just because you don't read those agreements does not make them any less binding.

Instagram terms of use*
Facebook recently acquired Instagram.  And one of its first steps was to change the terms of service in a BIG way.  The revised terms of service gave Instagram (ne Facebook) the right to sell your photos, to do without notice, and to pocket all the proceeds from the sale.  And the added kicker - even if users stopped using the service, unless it was done before January 16, 2013, Facebook had the right to sell all the photos uploaded to the site, even if the person quit Instagram.  And users could not opt out of any of these terms.

As everyone who has used any such site knows, these are "take it or leave it" terms.  They are not negotiated with users.  And in the case of the new Instagram terms, users could not select to opt out.

Royalty free image via Photo Pin **
Except a funny thing happened on Facebook's way to the bank with your photos.  As news of the new terms was publicized, an internet revolt erupted.  The reaction was so intense that Facebook faced the real possibility that the company they had just purchased was going to collapse in the wake of mass defections of users.

So Facebook took the only course available. Within 48 hours, Instagram reversed its position and withdrew the newly announced change in terms.

The lessons:

First, those fine-print terms of use mean something, including signing over some or all of your intellectual property rights.   When you join a site, pay attention to the terms of use.

Second, every once in a while the little guy wins one.

* photo credit: <a href="">mdurwin2</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

** photo credit: <a href="">Madison Guy</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

No comments:

Post a Comment