In this article, you'll discover three Instagram compliance issues marketers need to understand.
#1: You Grant Instagram a License to Use Your Content
The bottom line is, if you're posting images on Instagram, you're giving up some control of your content. As outlined in the most current Terms from 2013, the license you grant Instagram is “a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service.”
This means you're granting Instagram the rights to use your pictures (although you can still grant those rights to anybody, not just Instagram [non-exclusive]) and Instagram doesn't have to pay you anything (fully paid and royalty-free) no matter how they use your pictures (even if they happen to make money off of them).
Instagram also has the right to transfer this license to anyone in the world (transferable and worldwide) and even sell that license without having to pay you anything (remember royalty-free).
So what does this look like in real life? Well, let's say you're a travel blogger who takes the most amazing picture of the Eiffel Tower and posts it on Instagram. Technically, you've just given Instagram the right to sell a license for your picture to National Geographic to use on their website, without any compensation ever going to you.
Now, Instagram isn't in the business of doing such things, as they know their audience wouldn't view that practice well, but they could. The bottom line is just be aware that when you publish an image on this social media platform, you won't have 100% control over what happens to it. You may be perfectly okay with that… or not.
#2: You Must Provide Complete Rules and Terms for Every Contest
Instagram contests and giveaways are super-popular these days. They're a great way to gain followers and additional exposure for your business. However, there are a few things you need to do to make sure you're complying with Instagram's promotional rules.
The key is that your contest post must include (1) acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way, shape, or form “sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with” Instagram; and (2) a release of Instagram by each person participating in the contest.
In your contest rules, also include the terms, any eligibility requirements, and the prizes offered. You can list these rules directly in the post or link to a separate website that includes this information, plus other contest rules. Also, make it clear to participants that they can't inaccurately tag content.
Comply with the above guidelines and you're setting yourself up for a successful contest. To learn more about the ins and outs of running Instagram contests, check out this article.
#3: Respecting Copyright Is Your Responsibility
Using images legally on social media can get a bit dicey. I wrote more on the subject here, but the upshot with Instagram is to be aware that if you repost someone else's photo, you may be committing copyright infringement. I know it's hard to believe this when so much of the platform is about sharing other people's images.
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Here's what you need to know. Copyright protection is automatic for users once they post an image that they own on Instagram (meaning they took the photo or have the ownership rights to it). Copyright is a designation given to creative works you put into the world in a “fixed form” (for example, an Instagram post) that says you own it and can do what you want with it.
This means that nobody else can use that image (which includes reposting) without your permission unless you've agreed to some other terms that would allow them to do so. In this case, you've granted permission to Instagram to use your photos, but not to the millions of users on the platform.
You may be thinking, “but I see photos being reposted all the time.” True. But those people are all taking a risk unless they've reached out and asked the original poster for permission. Instagram makes it clear that reposting copyrighted images is not okay.
The caveat here, of course, is that 99% of people on Instagram are perfectly fine with you sharing their images, assuming you repost and tag them. However, there is that 1% of users who aren't okay with it, and if they find you reposting without their permission, they may have a claim against you for copyright infringement.
Instagram has a process for submitting a claim of infringement but asks users to try to work it out themselves first. Because who wants to get involved in a legal battle?
If you find someone is using your images (with or without tagging you), Instagram suggests the first step is to contact them. You can also fill out an online copyright report form. Instagram will then review your claim and potentially take action against infringers.
Note that in addition to what Instagram may do, the image's owner can potentially sue for copyright infringement and be entitled to large sums of money.
Seeing the potential of Instagram, there are startups popping up that help users navigate these waters. One such company is Pixey, founded by Sarah Stenhouse. Stenhouse describes the main purpose of Pixey as allowing Instagram users to easily sell and license their photos. Think of it as the newest form of stock photos, with a constantly updated library.
This information isn't meant to scare you away from sharing on Instagram. It's just to let you know that there are implications for your actions, and sometimes the best policy is to reach out and ask permission.
Want more like this? Explore Instagram for Business!
Luckily, when major changes take place on social media, someone usually will alert the masses, but better safe than sorry.
Instagram, like most social media platforms, is continually changing and updating. The information in this article should help you keep your account legit and your business growing on the platform. And as always, if you have a question about how to use a feature on their platform, reach out and ask. Usually, Instagram is more than happy to help!
*Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice and is for educational purposes only.
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