Instagram CEO calls plans to sell your photos (and keep the money) a misunderstanding -- and you believe him?
Instagram sure knows how to feed the frenzy. Shortly after the photo-sharing social network revised the rights policy, interpreted by many people as a sign of major changes regarding handling of user content and ownership, the company issued a response to the numerous complaints, blaming legal speak for the misunderstanding.
"Many users are confused and upset", so Instagram's co-founder, Kevin Systrom, took it upon himself, on behalf of the Facebook-owned social network, to inform concerned Instagrammers that everyone got it wrong. Systrom states: "Legal documents are easy to misinterpret", which basically implies that the problem is with reading the rights policy in the appropriate manner and not with the rights policy in itself. That's not overly reassuring, however, considering that what is basically a major change in philosophy can be so easily subject to interpretation.
Based on user feedback, Instagram promises to take a good look at what the company wrote beforehand and make some adjustments. Mistakes will be fixed and confusion will be eliminated, while "specific parts of the terms" will also be adjusted as to "make it more clear" on the company's intentions. Assuming that the Interwebs got it wrong the first time and Instagram is being honest (Is there such a thing in business?), surely writing a clear and sensible rights policy in a single draft makes more sense than waiting to see how the changes pan out or whether users bite the bullet.
The rights policy changes are justified as an "experiment" with "innovative advertising", that is deemed suited for the social network's orientation and the pursuit of turning Instagram into "a self-sustaining business". Translation: it's about the money, as Instagram can't monetize zilch without actually selling something. Instagram, however, says that a poor choice of words is used in the current draft and to remove any doubts as to its intentions an "updated language" will be used instead. If it is not true that content will be sold without compensation, what is?
The social network's vision, where money is actually made by selling something, is portrayed through brands and users that may wish to promote their accounts and content as to build a more "meaningful following" and "increase engagement". That's a similar take as with Facebook's sponsored stories, where users pay to have content promoted on the popular social network, basically advertising. It's something that big companies, like Audi for instance, could take advantage of for marketing purposes. Yet that's not what users got by reading the rights policy.
Instagram, however, denies any plans to use user uploaded content as part of an advertisement, and accordingly the suspicious language that caused concern will allegedly be removed. But in order to "feature" a brand or user through a more "relevant and useful promotion", some of the "data" produced by Instagrammers "might show up" if the user follows the respective brand or user. The use of the word "might" does not shed light on the matter in its entirety, and judging by public reaction the less interpretation the better for both the social network as well as its large user base.
What about the ownership rights? Yesterday my colleague Joe Wilcox reviewed the new rights policy and per his reading users give up their rights to content ownership simply by using the service. On the other hand, in the followup announcement, the social network claims no ownership rights over user content, the latter of which is still owned by Instagrammers. Systrom claims that "nothing about this has changed" further continuing to state that the company that he co-founded will "respect" creative artists and hobbyists that basically support the social network.
Systrom yet again claims that there are no changes implemented into the new rights policy concerning the amount of control users have over who can view their uploaded content. The man also states that the social network will not share photos other than with people with whom the user agreed to beforehand.
It will be rather interesting to observe the changes, if any, that Instagram will perform to the original public draft of the new rights policy. The social network has until Jan. 16, 2013, the date when the new rights policy is in effect, to make any alterations if planned. At the same time, concerning users also have until January 16, 2013 to make up their mind as to whether they will continue using Instagram or step back and stop using or cancel the account.