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New Year's resolution: Don't use Instagram, it'll sell YOUR photos

New T&Cs allow admen to flog tat using your snaps

Social network Instagram has provoked uproar among its latte-photographing users: it has changed its terms and conditions to grant itself licensing rights to sell all photographs taken by the app.

The amendment in the Ts&Cs will come into effect from 16 January. The firm will not technically "own" the images but will be able to license the snaps to third-parties.

Instagram - now part of the Facebook cloud - will also be able to place users' photographs or profile pictures in adverts.

Introducing the changes in a blog post Instagram apologised for the documents being "dry", but users are more upset by the sweeping changes to licensing rights.

In the "Rights" section of the new terms and conditions, these two clauses have caused a particular kerfuffle.

Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service

Exceptions are made for those who have set restrictions on how their photos are seen on the service, but crucially these only seem to apply to their use within Instagram, and there is no guarantee that these private photos will not be used elsewhere.

The current terms agreement - which will run until 16 January - also gives Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free worldwide licence to your content but it is not transferable nor sub-licensable.

Perhaps more galling for the coffee-snappers is the fact that their image and photos could be used to sell, well, any old thing that Instagram gets adverts for.

A photo of coffee, such as often found on Instagram, credit The Register

An Instagram snap of a mug of our office coffee.
This one's on us, Zuckerberg

Instagram makes a plaintive case for why it needs the cash:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

It's the using-your-likeness-for-profit wheeze that got Facebook in trouble when it started to use people's faces to advertise brands to their friends. The takeover by Facebook has forced the photo-filtering service to be more energetic in its pursuit of a viable business model. The previous terms agreement said that Instagram had the right to place adverts within Instagram alongside people's photographs.

Some users are threatening to quit the site, while others are expressing doubt that anyone would ever want to buy their colour-saturated breakfast photos. Others are offering to buy their friends' Instagram photos from Facebook to piss them off (technically they would only be able to purchase licences for use of the image, rather than outright ownership).

But of course, as most web users have always been aware, Instagram is a free service and the users are the product. These guys need to pay for their server space, and they have to work out some way of turning cupcake pics into dollars. ®

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