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Will Instagram Followers Rewrite Online Copyright?

In a quick snap, it seems that Facebook changed its mind regarding the way that the online news media will operate starting now. It is a known fact that the said platform, which is considered as the largest social media, owns Instagram. Concerning the assumption that has been circulating for a long time now, Facebook told Ars Technica that embedding Instagram media into sites may not shield website owners like news organizations from freely cross-posting on their sites. 

According to a Facebook spokesperson, while the growing Instagram followers’s terms and conditions allow the platform to grant a sub-license to site owners, it does not give one for embeds API. The spokesperson also added that third parties are required to get permission from applicable rights holders when embedding an Instagram media.

Moreover, the statement, as mentioned earlier, translates to upheaval for online publishing. This is because it implies that online news organizations or for-profit sites must acquire a license from the post’s owner before they could embed an Instagram post into their website. Concerns arise that in the future, Instagram embeds done by news sites would be stroke from their archives to prevent themselves from facing lawsuits. 

Photographers Will Benefit From Facebook’s Statement On Embeds

On the other hand, photographers may benefit from what Facebook has stated. This is because they may otherwise get paid by site owners who will use their Instagram posts as embeds. Photographers, such as the two who separately filed a lawsuit against Mashable and Newsweek, are the ones who are affected by this direct embedding done by personal websites.

Notably, the two photographers who separately sued Mashable and Newsweek both declined to permit the said news organizations to embed their Instagram posts. However, the publications still went on and used the photos, emphasizing that posting pictures on Instagram gives the platform a sub-license that can be used by websites. 

Furthermore, Facebook’s statement might also be Instagram followers commentary’s last gasp. It could also harm the news publishing industry. This is because it will become more difficult for them to acquire the images that they need for their articles. 

Instagram Follower Attorney Gets Involved

Attorney Nicholas O’Donnell, a lawyer who specialized in exceptional art copyright law, publicized his statement about the recent issue. According to him, Facebook’s account seems more like a policy decision. Besides, he said that Instagram might be worried that its users would post fewer creative media if they would be stripped off of its copyright.

Atty. O’Donnell also speculated that the recent statement that Facebook told Ars Technica is more of a reaction a New York federal judge gave the ruling in favor of Mashable. According to the judge, Mashable can embed the post of a professional photographer on its site because Instagram grants a valid sub-license for every media posted on the platform. Moreover, the said federal judge interpreted that Instagram’s terms and conditions grant sites a blanket sub-license using its embed API. 

Facebook is Planning to Allow Users to Gain More Leverage on Instagram

It seems that Instagram is trying to cater to potential plaintiffs. According to its parent platform Facebook, it is planning to aid users to acquire more leverage over embedding Instagram media. However, just like Instagram’s terms and conditions, Facebook’s statement itself has its loopholes. 

If Instagram wants to take a stance, which its parent platform is not known for, it could merely tweak a single sentence in its expensive policy. This simple revision could grant Instagram users with more leverage on the platform. The said policy seems to have several loops, so much that a second federal judge from New York tried to straighten these loopholes out. 

In the case mentioned above, another photographer filed a lawsuit against Newsweek for running a story about the Death Valley, and embedding their image of the Death Valley’s epithermal lake– a possible once in a lifetime photograph– without their consent. At first, Newsweek asked the professional photographer for a license to use and embed their image into their site. However, the photographer rejected the news publication’s request. So, the release resulted in directly integrating the picture posted by the photographer on Instagram into their site. 

Instagram Followers Sub-License Media Posted Online

Moreover, the court found out that without any uncertain terms, Instagram followers can sub-license media that are publicly posted. Besides, Instagram also states that its API is a way to help broadcasters to get the rights to digital media. However, there isn’t any evidence of any explicit agreement for sub-license between Newsweek and Instagram. 

Now, the question is who and how one can acquire a sublicense from Instagram? 

According to the three subsections in Facebook’s platform policy, a site that wants to embed an Instagram media and other individuals must take it up to the owner of the media before they can repost it. This only means that Instagram is not in any way in charge of sub-licensing posts.

Also, the Licensed Uses and Restrictions of Instagram clearly states that user content is solely owned by the users and not by Instagram. It also emphasized that Instagram reserves the rights that are not expressly granted to users who want to repost content. 


Furthermore, as noted by Ars Technica, Newsweek can turn the onus back to Instagram. This is possible if the news publication can successfully argue that the said platform is the content publisher since the embed API merely pulls up media that are hosted on the servers of Instagram. 

The logic behind embed API, which is known as the “server test,” was established in 2007 in the Ninth Circuit. During that time, a pornography magazine filed a lawsuit against the search platform Google. The grounds for the said lawsuit was Google framed and hyperlinked its images in a search.

However, the lawsuit against Newsweek is being tried in New York. Notably, a New York-based court rejected the server test recently and ruled that embedding media that contain a copyrighted image can be infringing.

Date: August 26, 2020 / Categories: Interesting, / Author: Joy P


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