UPDATED: Instagram to Users: Starting January 16, We Can Sell Your Photos

According to multiple reports, Instagram "clarified" its position that no user photos will be used in ads or sold.

In what has got to be one of the dumbest moves by a social media outlet to date, massive photo sharing service Instagram has updated its property policy so that beginning January 16, 2013, it will be able to use user photos in ads and with other products, essentially turning Instagram into the world's largest free repository of stock photography for the company, its parent company Facebook and their advertisers.

Facebook has been known to change its privacy policy and terms of service often, generally creating mayhem and causing users to unsubscribe or simply post useless policies of their own on their walls. Now that Facebook owns Instagram, it is moving to shore up what is no doubt to it a gold mine, and this latest move, if it stands, could cause a mass exodus of users.

Think of it this way: If you upload a photo to Instagram, after January 16, that will represent tacit approval for them to utilize that photo in conjunction with ads. Theoretically, as pointed out in the linked CNET story, one of its advertisers could use photos taken on their premises -- thanks to location tracking -- and not have to pay the photographer a dime.

Under the new policy, Facebook claims the perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, which would effectively transform the Web site into the world's largest stock photo agency. One irked Twitter user quipped that "Instagram is now the new iStockPhoto, except they won't have to pay you anything to use your images."

"It's asking people to agree to unspecified future commercial use of their photos," says Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "That makes it challenging for someone to give informed consent to that deal."

That means that a hotel in Hawaii, for instance, could write a check to Facebook to license photos taken at its resort and use them on its Web site, in TV ads, in glossy brochures, and so on -- without paying any money to the Instagram user who took the photo. The language would include not only photos of picturesque sunsets on Waikiki, but also images of young children frolicking on the beach, a result that parents might not expect, and which could trigger state privacy laws.

I was a late adopter of Instagram, but have used it with regularity for over a year. I like the service on the whole and think it has some real value in sharing photos with friends and across social networking platforms. But if Instagram/Facebook doesn't back off of this stance, I will be forced to delete my account because I have no desire to have my photographs used by advertisers without paying for them and I would encourage others to do the same.

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