Instagram Rescinds Agressive Advertising Terms of Service and Reverts to Former Version

After the uproar from users everywhere over Instagram’s repugnant terms of service update, the mobile imaging service finally backtracked on the update and reverted the offending advertising section back to the language under its prior terms of service.

In a company blog post covering the updated  terms, Instagram noted the following:

The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos. There was confusion and real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work.

Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.

And here’s the new/old language under Section 2 of “Rights” in the Terms of Service:

Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.

Note the complete lack of third parties using your photos without compensation to you. So that’s back to normal.

Not So Fast.

While this may be all well and good for now, Instagram signaled in the same blog post that it isn’t giving up on advertising, and will be going back to the drawing board for a while to make a thorough advertising plan.

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.

This should serve as a reminder for those who have not yet deleted your accounts to keep a close eye on what Instagram plans for the future.  I’m not saying that Instagram should have advertising on its service; however, for those who care about how their images are used (e.g., many Photography Bay readers), this may not be the last thing you have to worry about from Instagram.

It was all a big misunderstanding. Really, it was…

Instagram also reiterated that it had no plans to sell users photos in the first place when it issued the previous terms of service update, noting the following:

You also had deep concerns about whether under our new terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content. I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.

Wait . . . what? Let’s see the terms Instagram tried to implement again:

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.

I’m not sure if they are parsing words or not, but those two statements do not jive with each other.

While the prior terms didn’t say Instagram would “sell” your photos, it is clear that Instagram could/would license them for profit without paying you. In the photo business, the word “license” is often synonymous with the “sale” of a photo. While Instagram clearly isn’t after your copyright to your images, an irrevocable license will do all the work that it needs to in order to “sell” your images for profit.

There sure is a lot of talk about intentions and communication issues for something that is governed by a contract. Those intentions mean jack when it comes to the court room unless they are clearly spelled out in the binding contract (i.e., Instagram’s terms of service). Even with all the feel-good talk about valuing customers, Instagram still isn’t ‘fessing up to the scope of what they were after in the terms of service.

We’re sleeping with one eye open on you Instagram…

You can read the complete updated terms of service here on Instagram.



  1. sk says

    the reversion is only temporary until the hoopla dies down. Then they’ll slowly reintergrate the language 1 or 2 pieces at a time. They want everyone’s photos and they didn’t spend hundreds of planning hours, development & integration $$ AND all the legal costs to come up with “lawsuit proof” language just to give up at the first sign of trouble. They’ve already worked out the numbers figuring what % of their user base they can intially lose, which they figure they will gain back over time, and still have the new policies increase their bottom line. The only way these policies can be staved off is if they’ve lost a significant # of users & their new user rate is seriously impacted. AND everyone watches their terms of use and raises alarm bells as they attempt to reintergrate.