Instagram’s changes dubbed a ‘suicide note’ as users rebel

Joe Tree, founder and chief executive of Blipfoto
Joe Tree, founder and chief executive of Blipfoto
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Instagram, the photo-sharing service bought by Facebook for about $715 million (£441m) in October, has angered users by changing its terms and conditions to give it the right to sell their pictures without passing on any of the proceeds.

The move sparked an immediate backlash against the service, which launched in October 2010 and lets users customise their pictures by applying “filters” to make them look like traditional film photographs. Many commented on the firm’s website that they were closing their accounts.

In its updated terms, due to take effect from 16 January, Instagram said it does not claim ownership of any content uploaded by users, but it will have the right to use their names and pictures “in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you”.

Users who do not agree with the changes will not be able to opt out – instead, they will have to delete their accounts.

Instagram was founded by Stanford University graduates Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom and has more than 30 million accounts. Around five million photos are uploaded each day.

Earlier this month, the service terminated a function that allowed its pictures to be displayed on Twitter, which recently launched its own set of photo-modifying features.

Joe Tree, founder and chief executive of Edinburgh-based photography website Blipfoto, said the move had been dubbed “Instagram’s suicide note” but he pointed out that users’ information and pictures were “what giant social networks thrive on”.

He added: “This approach isn’t always wrong, but it’s still not a proven method of making a social network a sustainable business – and given the backlash facing Instagram, it isn’t always right either.”

Tree said Blipfoto, which lets users upload just one photo a day and hosts about 2.5 million images, charges an annual subscription for full membership, which provides a range of functions and helps to keep it free of advertising. He added: “That’s why Blipfoto wouldn’t sell your pictures to any third parties – unless, of course, they were helping you make some money.”