Instagram backs down, won't sell your images, but expect adverts and promo photos

Facebook-owned Instagram has been forced into backing down and changing its terms and conditions, after a huge backlash from its users over controversial plans that implied the photo-sharing service would be able to sell people's images without rewarding them.

"Yesterday we introduced a new version of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service that will take effect in thirty days. Since making these changes, we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean," admitted Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, in a blog post on the company's site.

Claiming that "legal documents are easy to misinterpret", Systrom goes on to say the company will be changing the wording off the T&Cs to clarify the companies' position over photos and in particular who owns them. Don't worry, you do.

"To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear," says the co-founder, before adding: "Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period."

Systrom also states: "The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question."

READ: How to back up your photos and leaving Instagram 

Systrom stops short of saying that your photo timelines won't suddenly be full of adverts or other parts of your data shared with others.

"Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following."

Systrom, who is still a part of the business following the $1bn sale to Facebook earlier in the year, gives an innocent example of why they want to change the T&Cs.

"Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business."

The controversy started when Instagram published a revised T&Cs that stated: "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."

It is not certain how many people will decide that even with the new revised plans the change is too much to take and move to a different photo sharing service altogether. 

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