Advertising companies to steal our Instagram photos! Probably not…

Advertising companies to steal our Instagram photos! Probably not...

You’ll remember a little while ago Instagram tried to amend their Terms Of Service and the whole internet went crazy. Indeed so did I! The mistake I made though was that I hadn’t properly read the wording for myself and had laid all my faith in another sites interpretation. Aforementioned site obviously didn’t understand the changes and had jumped to conclusions, I had to say sorry.

Well today we have another example of this, and this time I have done my research and I want to set your mind at ease.

On Monday a new bill passed here in the UK, its called the ‘Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill’. Among the boring parts there is a section referring to ‘Orphan works’, these are pieces of original material (be it physical or digital) that have no accompanying information about their owner. How this relates to Instagram (and Facebook, Flickr…etc) is that when you upload a photo to these services there is nothing in their meta-data to pin this material to you. It’s out in the world on it’s own. The bill lays down rules that would allow others to take that material and use it for their own financial gain. However, hidden in the details where apparently no one has looked is a little safe guard for everyone. Before you can use this ‘Orphaned’ item you have to perform a ‘diligent search’ for the owner. The searches would have to be verified as diligent by independent authorising bodies to show you’ve done all you could to find the owner. If no owner can be found you would still have to pay a ‘market rate’ to use orphan works so as rights holders could be recompensed for the use of the works if they were later identified.

So lets think about that shall we? You go to Google Images to find a picture of a sunset, or some food, and it comes up with this picture from Instagram with no data attached to tell you the owner. If you follow the image back to the Instagram profile it’s posted on you’ve found the owner…easy. They can now be paid for the use of the image and all is well. So there we have it, you’ve performed your ‘diligent search’ and kept within the law. More often than not though you’d go to a royalty free site so you don’t have to pay someone, their Instagram photo couldn’t have been that good.


Don’t panic people and make sure you do your research before you start shouting at Instagram. Lesson learn’t.

Apparently owning a Samsung Galaxy S4 will enrich your life
BT to assist in building the O2 4G network
  • Hawkeye

    Oh dear, where to start with this article?

    Consider this. Someone nicks loads of photos from Instagram (or any other source) and puts them up on a public website saying “Cheap photos”. Now guess what… all those photos are divorced from any means of tracking the original owner – well subject to the accuracy of not of any image matching search engines.


    When you consider than some photos (aerial shots for instance) cost a fortune to take and consequently sell for a not insignificant cost, someone can now rip off those photos, and sell them for peanuts. Even if the original rights holder finds those people who are now using their photos, they will not get anything like what the photos are actually “worth” back.

    It’s a horrible, horrible law, rushed through without proper consideration or diligence and articles like this do not help one little bit.

    Lastly you might want to check up what “royalty free” means. No it doesn’t mean (necessarily) that the photos are free and that you don’t have to pay someone for their use. If that’s indicative of your knowledge of this area then I question why you thought yourself capable of right this article in the first place.

    • Tom Ranson

      You’re points are valid but are based on the assumption that the parties made responsible for maintaining this law won’t do their jobs correctly.

      Photographers already have the identifying data stripped from their photos so the image can be resold without compensation to them, this law isn’t going to change that. From my perspective it merely provides a new avenue for people to pursue to claim back the payment they are entitled to. If these independent authorising bodies are properly regulated I can’t see a problem. Obviously (as with everything) this law isn’t perfect but if representatives are diligent enough then solutions can be found.

      Thank you, I am fully aware of what “royalty free” means, maybe I shouldn’t have used it here and instead referenced particular image licensing agreements that many places employ. I used it because it’s an accepted term for the idea of images that have been offered up for reproduction without compensation.

      Thank you for your input though, I like to encourage debate. :-)