Instagram has become the social network par excellence to share personal and professional photos. Abundant accounts of people who are dedicated to embellish the Instagram newsfeed with beautiful images that generate thousands of likes and, sometimes, thousands of dollars just to be posted.
However, very few people wonder what their rights as Instagram users are, and we consider it important that they are aware of what it means to have an Instagram account. For example, have you ever wondered who owns the photos that come up? Or, what about your photos if you close your Instagram account? Or, even more, could Instagram sell your photos and profit from them without you knowing?
Well, if they are questions that you have asked, or that you have never done, but you have already been stung, we invite you to continue reading.
What is copyright?
To answer the questions above, we must first define what copyright or copyright is, as it is known in English.
The copyright is the set of legal recognition that is granted to the creators of literary and artistic works (such as photography), to guarantee them the full disposition of their work and the exclusive right to earn money through it. This means that no one can use or exploit a work unless there is consent from the creator. And how is consent given? Through a license of use.
Here it is important to clarify that copyright does not protect facts or ideas, but it does protect the form of expression in which they decide to present those facts and ideas.
Does Instagram have the copyright on my photos?
Having defined the above, now it is time to answer the question that everyone is waiting for: Who owns my photos on Instagram? Instagram or me?
Yes, fill yourself with rejoicing and joy because you are the owner of your photos. However, in the power and exercise of that property, when you read the Terms and Conditions of Use of Instagram and accepted them conscientiously (aha), you agreed to assign to Instagram all the rights to use your photographs.
In other words, you gave Instagram a worldwide, free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable and transferable license, especially the content you upload. Therefore, Instagram has total freedom to use your photos and license their use to third parties, without you being able to sue them for that.
If I have my private account, cannot I access my photos anymore?
No. The privacy policies of your account are for the purpose of you deciding who can and who can not see your photos. However, that does not mean that Instagram sees you as private and therefore has no rights to use your content.
What happens if someone else uses my photos without my consent?
This question is probably the most common because being Instagram is an open social network where the general public can see your photos, it is very easy for someone else to pirate them.
So, if you catch someone using your photo on their social networks and attributing the authorship, you can report them on Instagram through their online platform. Now that, if you are making money with the sale of your photograph, without your consent, you can also get sued through the legal way in the country where the infraction was committed.
In fact, as Silvia Pinal would say, this is a case of real life: Since 2011, a guy named Richard Prince has made thousands and thousands of dollars selling paintings that, in reality, are photographs of various Instagram users … users who do not they receive a penny of those sales. Moreover, to finish soon, they were not aware that their photos were displayed.
Naturally, several of those affected have sued Prince, although without success. The courts of the United States, until now, have protected Prince saying that what the thief does – sorry, the artist – is a legal art form consisting of creating new works of art from works that already exist, known as “Appropriation art” (something tells us that those affected do not see it as an art).
And what role does Instagram play in this? None. Very wisely, Instagram washed his hands before this happened, establishing in his Terms and Conditions that he is not responsible for any type of use received by the photos that are uploaded to his platform.
So, while you can report someone on Instagram for using your photo, you can not hold the platform responsible for the use that users or people outside of Instagram give to your photos.
What happens with my photos if I close my Instagram?
Here would apply that famous saying that says (worth the redundancy): what is uploaded to Instagram, stays on Instagram.
Effectively. If you close your account or Instagram closes your account for misuse of it, all your photos, comments, likes, friends and other data and content that you uploaded to Instagram, will remain on the server even though users no longer can enter your account. However, this information will remain with them for a reasonable commercial term, according to their Terms and Conditions.
The question is, all that content, even if it is deleted from Instagram, will it stay on the internet forever? Some say yes, others say no. The internet is a mystery, but if any of you know, share that information with these dehorned authors (at least to know if the barbarities that we write here, someday will be deleted).
Also published on Medium.