A Breakdown of the Instagram Debacle

Instagram Terms of Service, Photo via

As the social media strategist here at Curator, I've been closely following the developments in Instagram's new terms of service fiasco. I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief timeline with relevant links to recap what happened this week:

Monday: Instagram announces on its blog that it's rolling out a new terms of service to take effect January 16, 2013. Buried in a mountain of legal copy is this line, which set everyone off: "To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, 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."  Also see this CNET post.

Tuesday: Amid some high-profile backlash, Instagram backs down and says, "we're going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos." (Instagram blog)

Also Tuesday: Some people start wondering what the Instagram user base is freaking out over, because the "new" TOS language has pretty much always applied. The Verge Managing Editor Nilay Patel writes, "Instagram doesn't have the right to create a 'derivative work' under 17 USC §106… [but] an advertiser can pay Instagram to display your photos in a way that doesn't create anything new…." (Full article here)

Wednesday: The collective discussion moves from the "all your grams are belong to us" line to other potential areas of concern in the new TOS. For specifics, check out Will Oremus' post at Slate's Future Tense blog.

It's still unclear, as of this writing, when Instagram's "modifications" to the new TOS will be made public and whether they'll affect the planned January 16 start date. That leaves us all kind of waiting to see what will happen. In the meantime, I've received a ton of Flickr friend requests from Instagram contacts hopping over (Flickr, in a well-timed move, updated its iOS app last week and made it much more Instagram-y), and I'm wondering if some users, like National Geographic, are perturbed enough to stay away for good. If that's you, I recommend exiting this post via this one last link to Gizmodo's list of six alternatives to Instagram.