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Instagram caves to public outcry, reverts terms of service

updated 01:08 am EST, Fri December 21, 2012

Original user agreement language not largely different than revision

As a result of immense public pressure and fallout over its new advertising policy, Facebook-owned Instagram has shifted its policies again. This time, the photo archival and modification service is rolling back its privacy and other policies to the original state. The rollback changes the policies to what existed prior to the reveal last week, that seemed to allow Instagram's ability to sell user photos uploaded to the service for advertising with little or no notice to the photographer.

A post on the company blog doesn't say that the company is going to stop monetizing user's photographs, however. The original language in the terms of service (now back in force) states that "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, subject to the Service's Privacy Policy."

The language contained in the recently reinstated "rights" section does not preclude Instagram from using uploaded photos as they see fit, as the user has granted a "transferable, sub-licensable" worldwide license to use or license the content to others. Furthermore, the same section clearly states that the user must "acknowledge that [Instagram] may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such."

The blog posting does say in clear language that the company has never had any intent of selling user's photos, but the language in the user's agreement does allow it -- and the company has not said it wouldn't use the photos in its own advertisements. Co-founder Kevin Systrom says in the blog post that "going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work."

In short, the original agreement contained much of the same language and rights as the now-rolled-back "Proprietary Rights in Content on Instagram" section of the new agreement that have alarmed users. While Instagram said in the newer terms that it "does not claim any ownership rights" on content posted, the same paragraph stated that users would have granted the company a "non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content." That clause carved out an exception: content that is not shared publicly "will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services."

By Electronista Staff
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