Should Instagram automatically license photos under Creative Commons?

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Instagram has undergone several big changes lately, most noteably taking away the ability to quickly view Instagram photos on Twitter. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom described this update during the LeWeb Internet conference in Paris as Instagram's evolution, and explained that the company would naturally change as it grew.

In an article from Business Insider on December 6, Alyson Shontell calls for Instagram to make a bolder move: to publish all photos under Creative Commons unless the photographer specifically changes their publishing license.

She argues that Instagram photos are driven by the public anyway, and the service is lacking a legal way to share the photos further. She explains that Yahoo's Flickr already has a successful Creative Commons option, but she believes Instagram photos should automatically be published under Creative Commons, instead of just having that option.

Shontell's main argument is that the Internet and smartphones have enabled everyone to become a photographer, and that most of these people just want to share their photos. She explains that most people already blast their photos to thousands of followers on social media anyway, and licensing them under Creative Commons would protect this, and further sharing, under the law.

What do you think? Would it be a good idea for Instagram to automatically publish photos under Creative Commons, or do you think it would cause push-back and reduce use of Instagram? Let us know your opinions in the comments.

Casey is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She spends too much time perusing social media sites, and she's especially fascinated by open source startups. twitter: @caseybrown_


Interesting news today about Facebook updating their terms of service for Instagram that would allow them to <a href="">sell photo's</a> without permission and/or compensatation--<a href="">then apologizing for the confusing language</a>. So the converstation has moved past Creative Commons licensing.

Here is another good post about <a href="">Open source alternatives to Instagram</a>.

Whoever is voting yes for this are just as bad as Facebook for the new terms. The user should set the terms for the image. A better resolution would be for Instagram to give a list (or text box) for the user to enter whatever licence they deem necessary. That way we protect the professionals that look to sell their images the same way we protect the casual users.

“creative commons” does not tell me much. You need to state which license.

In case of cc BY-SA I would agree.

In case of any NC term, that would likely forbid usage by instagram itself, so it would be asymmetric licensing again - and I would disagree.

Giving the users the option to replace Share Alike with No Derivatives (ND) would mean that they would essentially just allow propagating the images unchanged.

“[X] allow others to change your photo?”

In case of cc BY, I would disagree, too: That would mean that anyone could use the image without making the adaptions cc, too.

@TGM: A difference with cc-licenses is that they not only allow instagram to use the image, but also other users. They provide a level playing field (though some professionals who rely on shackling their users with proprietary license terms would not like that playing field).

A service which says “what you do here is public” is very different from a service which says “all your works do belong to us”.

And a plain text license field can not be interpreted automatically, so the licensing cannot be used by software to help users take decisions.

cc BY (only attribution necessary) would not suffice for me.

Having a default license is only a good idea if the license in question were widely understood by the licensors (users).

It would probably mean that the process of accepting the terms for an instagram account (and therefor the license) would have to include a guide and explanation on how licensing and CC works (and the implications thereof).

I'd rather have CC-licenses (why say "Creative Commons" when we are actually talking about a suite of different licenses?) as an opt-in, preferably bundled with information on what licensing means and how the different licenses work and apply.

It would also be great if license information was provided both in metadata mark-up and in the metadata of the picture files proper (perhaps as part of exif) and wherever the photos are published also links to resources on how to use licensed photos and how to attribute properly etc.

The point I was trying to make was that the user should control the licensing of their art. Not the company.

definitely, if they deem it to be published for anyone to see and use then the photographer decides.
This would also mean that NO ONE should be able to on sell that photo if the photographer deems this to be so.
Often people will not worry about it however,we need to be respectful.
There are quite a few sites that allow the proper controls and instagram should be no different.
I know ill not use sites that dont be respectful and provide the user with clear and simple options for those controls.

Jumping in here...good discussion so far. A little food for thought...

What about the way that YouTube does their licensing? They default to their standard YouTube license for video uploads, but then offer the option of Creative Commons - Attritbution.

Should Instagram consider that approach?

At least you can always choose not to use the service, and there is a value in giving your users the promise that they always have given rights with images they see in the service.

Essentially the question is if making it easy to share and reuse images is worth more than giving professionals the option to restrict others.

And the easiest way to share and reuse is if you can automatically do that with everything you find on a given service.

I agree with what you said, however what I've seen happen in the past is that a company allows this to happen which results in the competition doing the same thing, leaving users with little choice in the matter. It's like corporates with outsourcing call centres in a way, it's led to a massive drop in customer service, with little alternative with competition.

I wonder if there's a place for just doing it properly, respecting the photographer and take the performance hit with respect to the competition (if that really happens), eventually, would it be possible, that the fads go away, diminish, and that people actually start thinking about what they are doing and then want to be able just stipulate how their photos or any information is used.
Many wont and frankly most of what they put up no one really wants to see anyway, is just ME me me stuff.
These companies may have to accept at some point they are not going to be everything to everyone so just pick a niche and be respectable, might not quite get you the same dollars but you'll probably have respect and a reasonable following. Maybe even for longer.
Am I being to idealistic or something, probably.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.