As of January 16 next year Instagram will be changing their Terms & Conditions and for the first time you might really want to read them. The 2013 change gives the Facebook owned company a whole host more rights regarding what they can do with your content.
Two parts of the new terms set off the alarm bells and both concern something that was never abundant on Instragram until Facebook bought the company for $1billion back in the summer. One clause states the following:
Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.
In short, any business can use your images as part of an advertising campaign. Now, I'd be perfectly happy if my picture of a bacon sandwich was being used to promote a charity I supported, a bacon manufacturer, sandwich company, or other bacon related business; but we the users won't have any say in the matter. Any company could buy up the rights to use your photos and even your profile itself including information like your username. Instragram won't need to ask your permission and they definitely won't need to pay for your content.
The next worrying bit regards the advertisements themselves:
You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.
Translation: Covert adverts that don't need to be labelled as advertisements. I don't mind promoted Tweets on Twitter because they're labelled as such but when someone says “This bacon sandwich is amazing! #omnomnom.” It's got a very different meaning if it's an advert from Bacon Corp, or just a very pleased customer in their local Bacon Corp. Cafe.
I want bacon now.
In a press release on the company’s blog, Instagram have claimed that the changes will help them“fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used." To my eyes they may as well have winked creepily and stated “it's for your own good."
These terms don't come into effect until January but I think for once a conditions change actually needs a bit of thought. Personally I don't want to surrender all of the rights to my images even if they tend to be just pictures of interesting clouds, pints of beer and cupcakes so I may stop using the service. Or I may continuing to share and view pointless photos of cats and breakfast well after this policy change. Either way this wasn't a good move for Instagram and may be the precursor to similar policies for Facebook who could be using their billion dollar buy to dip their toes in the proverbial copyrighted waters.