Instagram is going to start selling our photos. How angry are you right now?
If you’re mad that a free service is going to use content that you freely share with the rest of the world via Instagram, Facebook, or Tumblr, Instagram plans on selling that content and using it inside of promoted media. It’s outrageous that they would build a product and try to make money off of it.
The New York Times wrote a decent, quick read on what the new Instagram TOS mean to us as users. In there, there is a claim saying that Instagram may not label sponsored posts as actually sponsored. I feel like, from working with bloggers and other brands, that there is an legal/disclosure violation somewhere in there but I may be wrong. Still, feels a bit unethical.
Also, using images without our consent for commercial gain is fishy. I had to sign away my life to sit as a peach-colored blur in the back of a Falcons commercial while eating lunch near Colony Square in Midtown. Instagram using without our permission, especially when you start throwing in images of kids, hits all kinds of wrong nerves.
Learn from others’ mistakes
Instagram’s updated Terms of Service are an obvious monetization ploy and a way to try and overcompensate for the fact that they probably don’t have a specific monetization strategy in place yet…so there is a very broad usage of “we can use anything anytime” rules in there to cover whatever strategy that wins the coin toss. However, I think they’ll most likely back-track before the day is out (like they did here).
We experienced something similar with Pinterest not long ago. Remember their TOS fun? It’s funny how Instagram could’ve taken a step back and learned from recent history. That would’ve been logical and could’ve avoided a huge backlash. Not playing nice with Twitter was bad enough.
What Instagram Owes Us
Sure, without users, there’s no way they could’ve sold themselves for a billion dollars. Companies are nothing without customers. But we use their service…for free. We don’t have to pay a dime for it. At the end of the day, Facebook has to make a return on their billion dollar investment. Even if they have less-than-ideal ways to monetize their platform, it’s their right to do it (provided its legal).
Other platforms have experienced the same sort of backlash, Facebook especially. We use these services for free and complain when something changes. Until we become paying customers, we can only influence monetization decision by whether or not we use that site.
We get caught up thinking we’re entitled to free products and services because they exist on the Internet. We’re conditioned to free tools and apps but get mad when people want to make money off of them. If a service wants to monetize, they have every right to. It’s just up to them to monetize in such a way as to not turn away their core group of users. Instagram could be flirting with that now. It’s not our problem but theirs.
Keep things in perspective
I doubt seriously Instagram has aspirations of becoming a user-generated Shutterstock-like service or that we’ll be seeing our sunset and cat photos on a billboard anytime soon. My guess (though it is giving them the benefit of the doubt) is that they’re covering themselves to use our images inside of a new business pitch when they try to sell their platform to advertisers. Since they make money off of those decks, even though they aren’t ads, they’d still have to make the Terms of Service claims.
Want to influence change?
Don’t use the site. Period. That’s it. Networks monetize on users. They can’t sell an audience size that doesn’t exist. There are other photo sharing apps out there.
Let’s be honest. If you’re up-in-arms because Instagram may use the faded pictures of your toes at a beach or self-portrait in a mirror as an ad, this may be a great opportunity for a reality check.
If you want to be paid a fee for your stellar camera phone photography, join another photo service that has filters. Share photos on Path for privacy, Flickr for licensing or set up your own online store to sell your photographs.
Me, I’ll probably keep using Instagram. Many brands could possibly be using my photo content for commercial uses on Twitter or Facebook. At least Instagram was upfront about using my content.
Instagram may the biggest and cleanest photo sharing service but it isn’t the only name in the photo game. Let’s not hit ourselves in the head with a hammer and complain that we have a headache. There are opportunities to make meaningful changes by how we engage with companies and which ones we choose to engage with.
What about you? Deleting Instagram or still using it?