Instagram: Does It Matter That It Will Make Money on Your Pics?

Instagram announced the company will soon begin using your content to sell targeted advertising products to the highest bidder. Does this bother you? Should it matter?

This new policy was announced in the firm’s recently published new Terms of Use, which go into effect on Jan. 16, 2013. The language that most irritates users states: “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.”

This recent announcement has created a virtual firestorm, with bloggers and pundits rising up in unison to trash the company. A recent article on Mashable accused Instagram of “signing your life away,” and even the hacker group Anonymous joined the fray, calling for a general boycott of the service unless the new terms are revised.

I don’t know about you, but I love Instagram. I downloaded the app more than a year ago (the service has been around for just over two years) and use it all the time. If I’m walking around the city and see something interesting, I snap a quick pic and upload it to the service, sharing it with my community. I guess deep down I always thought it would be cool to be a photographer, but never made the time to follow up on it, buy the equipment learn the art behind the art, so to speak.

Prior to the digital revolution, let’s face it, photography looked anything but easy or convenient. I recall friends who were photographers spending hours in darkrooms, not to mention plunking down thousands of dollars on expensive film, chemicals and other equipment. The rise of the camera-enabled smartphone changed all of that. Armed with a smartphone a fraction the size of camera from 20 years ago, any aspiring photographer could take amazingly high-quality pictures. With smartphone adoption rates in the US now more than 50 percent, a whopping total of 119.3 million people are now potentially part of the club.

Who’s Your Data? is a blog that aims to disseminate thought-provoking tips and techniques involving the use of data and database marketing to direct marketing professionals. Why should you care? Because implementing data best practices has been shown to lift response rates, improve analytics and enhance overall customer experience. Reader participation is encouraged!

Rio Longacre is a Sales & Marketing Professional with more than 10 years of experience in the direct marketing trenches. He has worked closely with businesses across many different vertical markets, helping them effectively leverage the use of data, personalization technologies and tracking platforms. Longacre is currently employed as a Managing Consultant, Marketing, Sales & Service Consulting at Capgemini Consulting, a premier management consulting firm. He is based in the company's New York City office, which is located in Midtown Manhattan. He has also previously worked as an online media buyer and digital marketing strategist.

Email Longacre below, or you can follow him on Twitter at @RioLongacre. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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  • Frank

    "I don’t know about you, but I love Instagram."

    You love evil?

  • C. Makepeace

    I don’t use Instagram, it being just one of dozens of photo sharing apps out there, no better or worse than any other in my opinion. Besides, I include a disclaimer in all my creative work that essentially states that I retain all rights to my creative work and that my wording trumps any other policy, rule, etc. to the contrary no matter when such policies or rules took effect.

  • MerriG

    This policy must be reversed. The U.S. government has established the Federal Copyright Law specifically to protect personal ownership of artistic works and intellectual property. Just because someone wants to share their work with the world doesn’t mean they want a company to resell it without compensation. The most dangerous aspect of this is that some will agree to it and do not realize future implications. I suspect if they don’t reverse this voluntarily, the U.S. Copyright Office, Federal Trade Commission, consumer groups and creative industry associations will reverse it for them.

  • steve m

    if instagram offered users a portion of the revenue received for their photos, assuming those photos were purchased by someone, then that might placate the user base. analagous to the apple app store rev share split. it also might encourage more use of the service and more creativity. self-tagging by users of image type and how it might be used in hopes that the image(s) might be looked at and chosen by a potential buyer might even occur. why not turn it into a real market where all ships are raised, rather than making such a "perceived" one-sided approach?
    Or, offer the right of refusal to users for a fee. if you would prefer not to participate in the free option, pay an annual fee of $5 or $10?
    I will be expecting a % of the revenue if they use either of these genius ideas.

  • marketingdoc1

    This country will need 1,000’s of new copyright lawyers by years end. Just ask Getty.

  • Denny Hatch

    Flatly disagree. Everything that comes out of a person’s head—prose, poetry, artwork or phtographs, music, performance videos—everything—belongs to that person under Copyright Law of the United States.

    The idea of a business model built on the violation of copyright is both illegal and obscene. The idea of a business model (Facebook) built on acquiring billions of eyeballs with no thought of monetizing it at the outset was stupid. In the words of Agora entrepreneur Bill Bonner, “The only bank that takes eyeballs is the eye bank.” This very week Morgan Stanley was fined $5 million

    “to settle allegations that it skirted rules designed to promote the independence of stock analysts.” And, of course, Facebook clobbered investors who went for the $38 IPO. Today the stock is listed at $27.79. In short, Facebook is a joke.

  • Guest1

    When your teenage daughter’s picture in a bikini ends up on a site like and is then used to promote a porn video, you may feel differently…