Unfiltered: Photographers React to Instagram’s New Terms

Ed Kashi—VII for TIME
Ed Kashi—VII for TIME
I am so deeply troubled by the whole social media movement. This is yet another example of how capitalism can create such wonderful products, technologies and services, but at some point the bite must come. We were fed high-grade drugs freely only to get hooked. Now that there are nearly one hundred million addicts (please excuse the hyperbolic metaphor here), the pusher man has decided to start charging. More specifically to my profession, what concerns me the most — as someone who relies on photography to make a living, support a family and employees in my studio — is that this is yet another rights grab. It falls in line with what media companies and publishers have been pushing for over the past decade: getting more rights for reusing our work without having to pay additional usage fees.
I am torn. Instagram has become a wonderful form of creativity, social connection and, in the case of TIME's coverage of Superstorm Sandy and working with the New Yorker, a way to get paid for doing what I love doing — meaningful visual reporting and storytelling. Yet this company is now behaving in a rapacious manner that flies in the face of what myself and many of my colleagues have fought so hard for over the years: to protect our rights and control our work.
What is tricky here is that Instagram is not taking our copyright away or our ability to reuse and financially exploit our work down the road. What they are doing is potentially making money and reusing our work, without our control and without further compensation.
Furthermore, I would like to see a concerted effort by our profession to stand up to this rights grab. We are already paying for the app, so it's not completely free. I would say that if they don't relent on this policy by Jan 16th, I'll take my account down and create a new one that is just for fun. And, if I get more assignments to shoot and post on Instagram — which I hope will happen — then I'll at least have been compensated to create those works.
Ed Kashi

It was a holiday surprise that few anticipated, and even fewer appreciated, as Instagram changed its terms/conditions of service on Monday, Dec. 17. Before the announcement, 2012 had been a landmark year for the photo-sharing service: in April, the service was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, seeing a proliferation of users. Publications like TIME, National Geographic and the New Yorker have integrated Instagram in their editorial work — TIME has twice featured Instagram photographs on our cover this year — once for our Wireless Issue and another to lead our print coverage of Hurricane Sandy.

Instagram’s strength lies in the application’s no-fuss, integrated and intuitive interface — camera software tied to your phone (and now your Facebook account) that allow users to visually document everything from important world events to their breakfast. But as photographers adopted Instagram for creative and even professional purposes, questions arose about ownership, property rights and profitability.

According to the changes, effective January 16, 2013, any photograph posted on Instagram’s service can be repackaged and sold by Instagram for advertising purposes without the user’s knowledge or consent.  In addition, by agreeing to the new terms, users are responsible for any legal claims that may result from the promotion or use of their images.

Long story short: Instagram can use your content to increase their revenue, and if a legal claim is brought against the company regarding how these images have been used, you (the user) might be responsible for the damages.

Adam McCauley

UPDATE (Tues, 5:25pm EST): Instagram has posted a statement responding to user feedback.

LightBox will be updating this post throughout the day as more photographers weigh in. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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