Instagram denies plans to sell users' photos

Instagram has denied that it is planning to sell user photos to advertisers, with company co-founder Kevin Systrom adamant that the popular photo-sharing app is not seeking to undermine the ownership rights of its subscribers.

The announcement of Instagram's new terms of use caused outrage yesterday (18 December, 2012), with many people - including celebrities like Kim Kardashian - expressing concern and some deleting their accounts and joining rival sites like Flickr after speculation began circulating that the Facebook-owned firm's new privacy policy meant that it owned commercial rights to users' content. One New York photographer went so far as to describe the amendment to the app's privacy policy as "Instagram's suicide note".

Following the brouhaha, Systrom told users plainly that "it is not our intention to sell your photos" via a blog post on the Instagram website titled, "Thank you, and we're listening." He went on to say that "legal documents are easy to misinterpret" and vowed that the company was "working on updated language" to ensure that it removes any mention of owning and selling users' photos.

"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," the blog stated.

The latest development is another chink in the armour of Instagram's prominent owner, Facebook, who bought the firm earlier this year in a blockbuster $1 billion deal (£614m). Since then, the social network has announced some controversial changes to the service, including the disabling of some support mechanisms for Twitter sharing.

Some commentators may regard the open-ended amendments to Instagram's terms of use as indicative of Facebook's desire to make money from its pricey acquisition, especially in light of remarks made earlier in the month by Facebook executive Carolyn Everson.

"Eventually, we'll figure out a way to monetise Instagram," she noted.

In his blog post, Systrom seemed to concur that advertising was an important way for Instagram to become a "self-sustaining" business, but maintained that making fast and loose with user produced content was not on the agenda.

"Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation," he said.