Instagram has gotten a lot of attention in the past 24 hours after a district court in New York dismissed photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair’s copyright lawsuit against Mashable for its embedded use of a photograph she posted on Instagram. The court found that that when Sinclair posted her image on Instagram, she agreed to Instagram’s terms and conditions which authorized Instagram to grant a sublicense to anyone who uses Instagram’s Application Programing Interface (API) to embed public posts. The court then found that when Mashable embedded the Instagram post in a web article, it was entitled to do so based on its sublicense from Instagram that permits such a use. Setting your Instagram account to “private account” prevents embedding.
While we consider NPPA’s response to the ruling, we recommend that you considering joining the growing chorus of photographers changing their settings to “Private Account.” Here’s how: in your Instagram account, click Edit Profile>Privacy> then click “Private Account” button. If you have a business account, you must switch it back to a personal account in order to go private.
A lot of photographers have also made posts that explain why they have gone private. That is helpful for raising awareness amongst your followers. However, people who don’t already follow you don’t see that post. We recommend that you include a brief statement to your “bio” that explains why. Your bio is limited to 150 characters, but our recommended language below is only 85 characters:
Account is private to block embedding of my images. Click “follow” to request access.
You can also download an NPPA “square” to post to your Instagram account with a message explaining why you have switched to a private account.
Download the squares here and here.
It is worth noting that nearly all social media platforms permit some level of embedding of public posts, including Twitter and Facebook. However, the nature of Instagram as a platform specifically geared towards only posting photographs makes Instagram, combined with Instagram’s lack of options to control embedding, particularly susceptible to abuse as a replacement for licensing an image.
Remember, there is no substitute for reviewing the terms of service of the social media platforms you use, and making sure that your settings are in line with your goals regarding the use and sharing of your work.