Maybe you’ve been playing along with the home version of Instagram‘s TOS controversy. The interwebs have been buzzing about it for the last couple of days and since I hate to miss a party I’d like to pile on. However, I have a bit of a different take here, so before you turn away in disgust at my blatant attempt at link bait, please read on.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention (or who aren’t Instagram users), the basic facts are these. Instagram, a widely used photo-sharing application, announced it was modifying their Terms Of Service to include this language:
“…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.”
Pretty clear what it means in my mind but I’m not a lawyer. Actually, since these are for users to read and understand, I shouldn’t have to be. In any event, many users were distressed that their images could be used without their permission in commercial ventures. As one might expect, since there are quite a few professional photographers on the service, they were among the most alarmed, and posted that they were deleting their accounts. So did many users.
The CEO of Instagram stated the following:
“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.”
Intention? Hmm. Here is my take on the whole thing. If you’re not going to do something, say so. Don’t use careful, lawyer-like language – “not our intention”. It makes you seem like you’re lying. If your kid was dressing up on a school night and says “it’s my intention to stay home and do my homework”, you wouldn’t just leave it at that. We need to be clear and honest with our customers and partners. Wiggle room isn’t part of that.