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Instagram Wants You to Take Permission Before Using Someone’s Photo

Image for Representation

(Image: Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Image for Representation (Image: Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Instagram has said that users of its embedding feature don't get licenses from Instagram to display photos. An official statement, however, is still pending.

When Instagram was launched back in 2010, one of the biggest problems was that anyone could potentially ‘steal’ someone’s photo from the platform. The company is FINALLY taking this matter seriously, at least to some extent.

According to a report by Ars Technica, Instagram no longer provides users of its embedding API a copyright license to display embedded images on other websites. "While our terms allow us to grant a sub-license, we do not grant one for our embeds API," a Facebook company spokesperson said in an email. "Our platform policies require third parties to have the necessary rights from applicable rights holders. This includes ensuring they have a license to share this content if a license is required by law."

Essentially what this means is that you may need to seek permission and a license from the Instagram user before embedding his or her photo to your website. Failure to do so could lead to a copyright lawsuit as Instagram will no longer give you the right to sublicense someone’s photo.

This could be a big change especially for professional photographers who actually work hard to get stunning photographs. Up until now people have been freely embedding Instagram posts on their own websites without worrying about any consequences. However, the new development has arised from a recent court case where photographer Elliot McGucken had sued Newsweek for copyright infringement, arguing that he hadn't given the company permission to use his photo.

Apparently Newsweek had asked the photographer to license a rare photo of an ephemeral lake in Death Valley. However McGucken refused, so Newsweek embedded a post from McGucken's Instagram feed. Newsweek was confident about their case as Mashable had won a similar case back in April. However, the tables turned when Judge Katherine Failla refused to dismiss McGucken's lawsuit at a preliminary stage. According to her, “there wasn't enough evidence in the record to decide whether Instagram's terms of service provided a copyright license for embedded photos.” Following the ruling, Instagram has clearly stated that users of its embedding feature don't get licenses from Instagram to display photos. Instagram further said that it is exploring the possibility of giving users more control over photograph embedding.

While this might be an excellent decision, the platform continues to be plagued by thousands of Instagram accounts that 'repurpose' photos by taking screenshots or downloading them via third-party apps. Perhaps Instagram could enforce new policies and features that would block such users from misusing someone's hard work.