So, it has happened that a large photo ‘bank’ has just announced massively important changes to it’s user agreement. These changes will effectively make Instagram one of the worlds largest photo stock libraries with one major difference. It will not have to pay a penny to its contributors!
This comes shortly after Instagram itself was purchased by Facebook and until now, Facebook has failed to manage to change its own privacy laws enabling it to grab copyright of its contributors images. Instagram gives account holders until the 16th January 2013 to delete their accounts if they are not happy with the change. What seems to be uncertain is that if users do not delete their accounts before this deadline then Instagram/Facebook may well have irrevocable rights to the images in perpetuity!
There have already been many that have said they will delete their accounts and see this as a massive travesty of copyright law etc etc. However, I have only seen most of this coming from fellow photographers and people in the creative and tech industries. Surely, these people would be seen as a ‘necessary’ loss by Instagram, leaving the vast majority of their account holders vulnerable and unaware of the impact of the changes. This in turn means that Facebook will have grabbed the commercial rights to millions of ‘usable’ images to be sold to its advertising clients for goodness knows what fees. Lets not kid ourselves, many ‘amateur’ photographers have no idea of the commercial worth of their captures and many would simply be delighted to see their image becoming a national campaign for xyz company in the future. Some others, parents of vulnerable children spring to mind, might not be quite so pleased to see their kids faces splattered across billboards all over town!
This whole approach does seem to be extremely morally questionable and one we can only wait and see what the ramifications will be. Many argue that 99% of these images are of pretty poor quality grabbed on low resolution equipment but that surely isn’t the point is it? Equally, there will be many images that are of much better quality and composition and yet were not uploaded to Instagram for any other purpose than social media sharing. For this then to be commercially available to any company willing to pay everyone other than the image maker themselves seems to be a massive change in a tried and tested system that has held together well until now.
We await Facebook’s replies to the myriad of questions set to them with bated breath, unfortunately, the vast majority of their clients won’t realise the impacts of the change, or, until its too late.
Shame on you Instagram/Facebook!