Instagram Claims Ownership To All Our Photos, Then Takes It Back (Sort Of) [Updates]

image1   Instagram Claims Ownership To All Our Photos, Then Takes It Back (Sort Of) [Updates]It’s been a rough couple of days for Instagram users, and if you’re one yourself and are not aware of the changes yet, here’s a quick recap of everything that’s happened. On Tuesday, Instagram, now fully acquired by Facebook, announced that a new privacy policy and terms of service will take effect starting January 16. The new terms stated that Instagram can use your photos as it wishes, without reimbursing you or even mentioning your name.

According to the new policy, it seemed Instagram users didn’t really have ownership over their photos; rather, Facebook can make use of them in advertisements as it pleases, and even sell them to companies that wish to use them to promote themselves. Naturally, this caused an uproar among Instagram users, some of which, and this includes several of our own authors, even chose to uninstall Instagram completely. Following this backlash, Instagram has issued an update, where they pretty much take back everything they’ve said, claiming that the “language was confusing”.

image   Instagram Claims Ownership To All Our Photos, Then Takes It Back (Sort Of) [Updates]

To save you some reading, Instagram now says that users are the sole owners of their photos, and that there are “no plans” to use these photos in third-party ads. What they meant, or so they say, is that they plan on offering users the ability to promote their photos and accounts in order to get more followers. The new “Terms of Service” will be published soon, where the confusing language will be changed and/or removed. All this is happening only days after Instagram chose to remove support for Twitter timeline.

So what can you do as a user? First of all, be alert. Follow the Instagram blog for new updates, and make sure you know what the new privacy policy and terms of service are. Remember that you’re not obligated to use Instagram, there are many good alternatives out there, and you do not have to put up with anything that’s not to your liking.

What do you think of the latest changes? Does it affect the way you use Instagram?

Source: Instagram Blog

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Austin Halsell

I’m happy to see that you seem to have written this fairly neutrally, however, there are some assumptions and misunderstandings that lean towards being against Instagram’s upcoming change in their Terms of Service. I’m not saying that your article is misinformed, but it certainly is under-informed and unbalanced.

The most important thing, IMO, to understand is that very little is actually been updated. A side by side comparison of the two will show that the only thing they added was that they can now use your ‘likeness’ in a non-exclusive, royalty free limited license. In fact, the new TOS is more specific about what they can use and the old/current TOS is far more vague. Vagaries in legal documents can be dangerous for both the company and the user.

Another interesting thing to note, is that nearly every other social network that you can and do post pictures to already has this clause in their TOS. Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. already have (and exercise) this part of the TOS. Additionally, if you connected your Instagram account to any of these services or post any of your pictures to them, that service now has the very same access to your photos and metadata under their TOS. Do you post automatically from Instagram to Facebook? Well, then Facebook already has the right to use that photo in whatever way legally fits their Terms of Service, which includes selling it for a profit.

I’m not saying it’s right for them to do these things. Social networks are relatively new and the legality of what they can and can’t do with your data is not exactly finely hammered out. If you’re going to abandon Instagram, you might as well jump ship on all the other social networks too. All I’m saying is that don’t crucify one when nearly every other one has the same or more oppressive legal language. The lesson here really is that people need to read the Terms and Conditions for the services they use.

Austin Halsell

Oh, I forgot a couple things. If you’re really that concerned about Instagram selling your photos, then watermark them. It will discourage using them as photo stock and at least give you ‘credit’. Also, if your really set on ditching Instagram, then the only photo sharing site that does not hold any rights (as of now) to use your photos is the granddaddy of them all: Flickr. The iOS app has been updated and is pretty interesting, especially since it isn’t just an Instagram UI knock off. Plus there are a ton of iPhone/mobile only groups to join.

If you want to read a pretty balanced and educated article about it on Life in Lofi. and Instagram’s half-apology:


Thanks for sharing. I Flickr however, I have been more careful of the photos I post on the internet. Too many sites are simply changing privacy policies and TOS which many users never read in the first place.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

If you’re serious with photography, you may want to invest your time for a personal website you can always control by yourself without confusing and ever changing TOS. It’s more complicated but worth the hassle.

Yaara Lancet

Thanks for the very informed comment, Austin. There’s no only so much that can fit in a 200-word post, and the best and most accurate thing to do is definitely to read the TOS yourself.

Thanks for taking the time to write this!


Legally, Instagram can say people “own” everything, but retain an unrestricted “license” to use content however they wish with or without additional compensation besides providing you with an account. In that sense, “ownership” is meaningless.

These people need to be watched extremely closely.

This was no mistake – unless they have an 8th grader reviewing legal matters for them. I suspect Facebook hoped it would pass under the radar and, if so, then the same policy would have been implemented there.

Daniel Voyles

Wow, people actually read the TOS?

Timothy Liem

of course! how can you not reading it? you’ll regret if there’s something like this happen, you won’t be able to do anything because in law, they’re stronger because they have the prove that you agreed to their ToS. try to read the ToS and EULA before using anything.

Daniel Voyles

Doesn’t matter to me. I don’t use the service.

Carlo Vincente

It´s easy, people. Don´t use FB or Instagram and don´t share anything.


I am in the same boat here. FB is evil. I do not use FB or Instagram.

Tony Khamo

Why are people so surprised?? People start business to make money…

Richard Borkovec

When Instagram was by themselves, they pretty much said they’d never were really out to make money. But once Facebook bought them, that all changed.

Austin Halsell

Richard, that is simply not true at all. I don’t know if they said that at some point in time, but I do know that in response to the TOS user uproar the co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, said, “From the start, Instagram was created to become a business.”

It costs money to maintain servers. It costs money to produce consistent, quality updates and bug fixes. In being a free to download and free to use app, Instagram always needed to figure out a way to make money, because at the end of the day, they at least need to maintain the status quo.

Richard Borkovec

In an interview with, he said “It comes down to the mission we’ve had since the beginning: Everyone in the world should be using this to share what’s happening[,]” and ” Selling for a certain amount of money is awesome, but it’s not what gets me up in the morning. The goal should be about creating value.” And those were just two months ago.

I realize it takes money to maintain all that, I’m not stupid, and free apps especially have the paradigm of how to make that up. But just two months ago said that making a massive amount of money off of it wasn’t the original goal.

Austin Halsell

I think you might be reading between the lines a little too much. In both of those quotes, he never says that they didn’t intend to make money. What he says is that they didn’t care if they made a ton of money. And that is an enormous difference.

Nicola De Ieso

When Instagram was acquired by Facebook, was clear that the service pointed to the publicity and advertisement.

Scott Macmillan

I can’t believe that after all of the flack Facebook and others took for taking their customers for granted that they would even try something so ill thought out!

Timothy Liem

that’s why I was pretty worried when facebook took instagram. facebook never meant to be a private place and everything you upload there will be theirs. I stopped uploading my photos there, to facebook since a year ago. and for intagram, lucky I haven’t got any account.

Junil Maharjan

This is why i stopped using instagram as soon as facebook bought them.

Chew Jian Yue

I didn’t know that Instagram will do such a thing.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

It’s not the same Instagram you know anymore, now that it has been acquired by Facebook.

Grace Elizabeth