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Dec 20 2012, 20:41 IST
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SummaryInstagram’s new rules, unless amended, have dire ramifications for the future of the company & its users.

When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in April this year, most experts thought that it had paid way too much for the photo-sharing company. As it turns out, if Instagram’s terms of use stay the way they are, the company could turn out to be an unprecedented money-spinner for Facebook. According to Instagram’s new terms, applicable from January 16 onwards, the company has “a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable... worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service”. And, by using Instagram, “you agree that a business or other entity may pay us (Instagram) to display your username, likeness, photos … in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you”. In plain-speak: We have full rights over your photos; we can sell them, lease them, etc, and you won’t get paid for it. This opens up a goldmine for Facebook, since it makes Instagram the world’s largest collection of stock photos available for sale to anybody who wants them. Photos of your holiday in Goa, night out for drinks, family reunion, etc, could all be up for grabs.

The backlash against these new terms was predictably cacophonous—social media, news networks, message boards all exploded with outrage (one analyst even called the new terms Instagram’s suicide note). To his credit, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom was quick to blog an explanation saying that the wording of the terms were faulty and that the company never intends to sell users’ photos or use them in advertisements. But, as things stand, until the terms of use are amended, that’s what Instagram can do. Perhaps an indication of the suspicion around the issue is that National Geographic (with its own team of lawyers), one of the earliest adopters of Instagram, has decided to stop uploading any photos to the site until the terms are clearer.

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