Dec 18

IP and Instagram-a Teaching Moment Perhaps?

I had to shake my head when I saw the outraged reaction to Declan McCullagh’s story on CNET.com about changes made Instagram’s “Terms of Service” that supposedly now give the popular Facebook-owned online photo-sharing service the right to “sell users’ photos without payment or notification.”  According to McCullagh:

Instagram said today that it has the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification, a dramatic policy shift that quickly sparked a public outcry.

The new intellectual property policy, which takes effect on January 16, comes three months after Facebook completed its acquisition of the popular photo-sharing site. Unless Instagram users delete their accounts before the January deadline, they cannot opt out.

Nowadays social media sites are constantly tweaking their privacy and usage policies, so that’s nothing new.  What struck me, however, was how many of the site’s subscribers were suddenly discussing, and expressing concerns about, protecting copyright.  Suddenly the concept of protecting IP seems to matter–well, at least when it comes protecting their IP.

In comments responding to McCullagh’s CNET  piece, one poster admonished Instagram saying: “You DO NOT have permission to use my stuff just because it’s hosted on your servers.”  I agree, but Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom would likely take the opposing view.

Another posted this: “My photos will not sell without my knowledge and compensation.  I spend time on my pictures.”  For the record, this is essentially what content creators have been saying for a long time in rebuttal to claims that online piracy is OK.

Whatever happens with Instagram’s “Terms of Service” (the company already appears to be attempting to clarify them) I think we should take advantage of this dust-up as a possible teaching moment.   Copyright is important to creators, small and large, on Instagram and across the web.  Perhaps when people realize what’s at stake with their own creations, they will better appreciate what’s at stake when it comes to the creative rights of others.