Thoughts on current legal news in media, technology and the arts

Mobile Apps and Terms of Use: the Instagram Debacle

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | Posted by Lizbeth Hasse, Esq. | Labels: , , , , , 5 comments

Mobile app developers frequently need to update their Terms of Use, prompting the familiar but often ignored, “Terms & Conditions Have Changed” iPhone alert. The updates usually accompany new technologies and services, and do not represent policy shifts or noticeable service changes; hence the heedless recipient. But as the recent Instagram controversy shows, providers should avoid hiding big changes in small print.

Instagram is a mobile application downloaded by more than 80 million users to date. It allows users to stylize and share photographs and other images using a variety of preset filters. Late last year, Instagram unveiled its new Terms of Use policy that included the following clause:

“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.”

Thus, it seemed, by uploading photos to Instagram, users were deemed to have consented to use by others of the images for advertising materials.

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