Using Netflix in South Africa is illegal

South Africans continue to be frustrated by the paucity of legitimate and convenient TV and movie download or streaming options. At the moment DSTV and a limited South African iTunes store are the primary options. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be enough so more and more consumers are looking to popular video rental service, Netflix, for their entertainment needs. The problem is that Netflix content isn’t legally available in South Africa and its likely for the same reason that the local iTunes store lacks TV and some movie content: licensing restrictions.

South Africans continue to be frustrated by the paucity of legitimate and convenient TV and movie download or streaming options. At the moment DSTV and a limited South African iTunes store are the primary options. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be enough so more and more consumers are looking to popular video rental service, Netflix, for their entertainment needs. The problem is that Netflix content isn’t legally available in South Africa and its likely for the same reason that the local iTunes store lacks TV and some movie content: licensing restrictions. Brett Haggard, writing for htxt.africa a week or so ago, pointed this out:

Right now, we’re told by inside sources at the big pay TV service providers on the continent (take a guess who, I mean, there aren’t all that many to choose from) that the digital rights for the popular television series we all crave so badly haven’t been signed, sealed and delivered to any one party as yet. Our sources tell us that, should anyone express any interest in bringing that content to the continent in a digital form, the big pay TV service providers will have the first shot at the action, in effect blocking the attempts of other players to get their hands on vital content licenses.

What this means is that the only legitimate means of obtaining much of the TV content (and probably the movies missing from the South African iTunes store) is through the local pay TV providers. The reason is what appear to be exclusive or pre-emptive content licensing deals the local paid TV providers have struck with the content producers or distributors. In many respects, this is the same issue we faced when the iTunes store was not yet available in South Africa (or, at least, where certain content or channels are not available here) and which I wrote about in my 2009 post titled “Legalities of US iTunes Store vouchers in South Africa“:

What does this mean? Well, the license granted to users is the set of permissions that give users the lawful right to consume that content. This is primarily a copyright issue. The content available in the store is owned by 3rd party content creators, publishers and other rights holders. They own the content and, through a license, grant users the right to consume the content.

So, for example, a music company owns the rights to an album that is available for sale in the iTunes Store. This means it likely owns copyright in that album and the bundle of rights that give it the exclusive rights to do various things with the content. In the absence of a license from the music company, you may not do much with the music. The license contained in the iTunes terms of service grants you permission to buy the album and consume it. In this case the license comes from Apple which was, in turn, licensed by the music company to sell the album to you under the license in Apple’s terms of service. It is a little complicated but the bottom line here is that the license in the iTunes terms of service is a series of permissions and restrictions. One of those restrictions is the geographical limitation of the iTunes Store’s availability. What that means is that if you purchase content from the iTunes Store in violation you are doing so in breach of the license and that, in turn, is a breach of copyright and is illegal. It is also a breach of your contract with Apple in the form of the terms of service and Apple could effectively cut your access to the Store and potentially the content you purchased from the Store.

Netflix users face a similar challenge and for similar reasons. The document which governs much of a Netflix user’s service use is the Netflix Terms of Use which begins with the following:

Welcome to Netflix! We are a subscription service that provides our members with access to motion pictures, television and other audio-visual entertainment (“movies & TV shows”) streamed over the Internet to certain Internet-connected TV’s, computers and other devices (“Netflix ready devices”).

These Terms of Use govern your use of our service. As used in these Terms of Use, “Netflix service,” “our service” or “the service” means the service provided by Netflix for discovering and watching movies & TV shows, including all features and functionalities, website, and user interfaces, as well as all content and software associated with our service.

These Terms of Use cover a broad range of issues relating to your service use but if you skip to about halfway down, to section 6 titled “Netflix Service”, you will read these key clauses (parts c, e and f, respectively – I have highlighted the key sections):

You may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show. The content that may be available to watch will vary by geographic location. Netflix will use technologies to verify your geographic location. YOU MAY WATCH ON UP TO SIX UNIQUE AUTHORIZED NETFLIX READY DEVICES AND THE NUMBER OF DEVICES ON WHICH YOU MAY SIMULTANEOUSLY WATCH IS LIMITED. Go to the change plan information in the “Your Account” page to see the number of devices on which you may simultaneously watch. The number of devices available for use and the simultaneous streams may change from time to time at our discretion without notice.

You agree to use the Netflix service, including all features and functionalities associated therewith, in accordance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, including public performance limitations or other restrictions on use of the service or content therein. You agree not to archive, download (other than through caching necessary for personal use), reproduce, distribute, modify, display, perform, publish, license, create derivative works from, offer for sale, or use (except as explicitly authorized in these Terms of Use) content and information contained on or obtained from or through the Netflix service without express written permission from Netflix or its licensors. You also agree not to: circumvent, remove, alter, deactivate, degrade or thwart any of the content protections in the Netflix service; use any robot, spider, scraper or other automated means to access the Netflix service; decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble any software or other products or processes accessible through the Netflix service; insert any code or product or manipulate the content of the Netflix service in any way; or, use any data mining, data gathering or extraction method. In addition, you agree not to upload, post, e-mail or otherwise send or transmit any material designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer software or hardware or telecommunications equipment associated with the Netflix service, including any software viruses or any other computer code, files or programs.

The availability of movies & TV shows to watch will change from time to time, and from country to country. The quality of the display of the streaming movies & TV shows may vary from computer to computer, and device to device, and may be affected by a variety of factors, such as your location, the bandwidth available through and/or speed of your Internet connection. You are responsible for all Internet access charges. Please check with your Internet provider for information on possible Internet data usage charges. Netflix makes no representations or warranties about the quality of your watching experience on your display. The time it takes to begin watching a movie or TV show will vary based on a number of factors, including your location, available bandwidth at the time, the movie or TV show you have selected and the configuration of your Netflix ready device.

In other words:

  • Content availability is limited by geography (almost certainly because of the sorts of licensing deals Haggard alluded to in his htxt.africa article);
  • Netflix will use verification technologies to confirm you are in the country you say you are in (this is to help Netflix ensure it complies with its licensing obligations to its content providers);
  • You agree not to circumvent measures Netflix puts in place to limit access to its service or to make use of the content other than as permitted by these Terms of Use;
  • As we have seen with the local iTunes store, the range of content that is available in different regions will vary from country to country.

As with iTunes, there are ways to circumvent Netflix’s technologically-enforced geographical restrictions but having the capability to access Netflix’s content doesn’t equate to permission to access it. If you lack permission to access the Netflix content you lack a license to access that content and unlicensed or unauthorised access to the Netflix content is copyright infringement. In legal terms, this is tantamount to torrenting the content. The main difference is that consumers who go to the lengths of spoofing their locations to sign up to use Netflix are, at least, paying for the content. That should count for something but it doesn’t change the legalities of not complying with Netflix’s Terms of Use.

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p>If you are accessing Netflix from South Africa, you are infringing copyright and likely to be branded a “pirate”. At least you’re paying.

Instagram’s revised 2013 Terms of Use and Privacy Policy may not be better

Heavy Chef with Don Packett-6

Two steps back and to the side

Instagram revised its controversial Terms of Use after reviewing feedback on and criticisms about its proposed changes due to take effect in January 2013. Kevin Systrom published a blog post a few hours ago in which he included the following:

Earlier this week, we introduced a set of updates to our privacy policy and terms of service to help our users better understand our service. In the days since, it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities – to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right.

The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos. There was confusion and real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work.

Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010. You can see the updated terms here.

Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

You also had deep concerns about whether under our new terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content. I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.

The bottom line (if you don’t want to get into some of the details below): if you were comfortable using Instagram before Instagram presented its new Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, you’ll probably be comfortable continuing to use the service.

Reverting to the current wording, sort of

The paragraph in the new Terms of Use which caused the outrage has been removed and substituted with the original paragraph from the current terms. It reads:

Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.

Instagram changed the preceding paragraph by shifting some emphasis to the new Privacy Policy. The amended paragraph states the following:

Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram 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, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.

The changes are highlighted.

Not necessarily better

This doesn’t mean that Instagram has capitulated and won’t ever use your personal information and content as part of an advertising model. It means that it will do so as you currently agree it may and that it may change the model later “without specific notice to you”. In some respects, this is a little more problematic because the current/revised clause is broad enough to allow Instagram to do what it described in the controversial clause which was just more explicit about the changes.

Aside from the third paragraph which remains in place (and which we repeated below), the changes appear to have addressed the main concerns about the update:

You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

This residual paragraph opens the door for Instagram to still associate ads with your Content and not clarify whether this association is part of a paid service, sponsored content or commercial communication. This may a concern for people who are being paid to sponsor specific brands and products and who are prohibited from being publicly associated with competiting brands and products as the advertising Instagram could use could intefere with those sorts of restrictions.

An example of this could be a sports personality who is sponsored by, say, Adidas and who may be prohibited from any association with, say, Nike in public. If Instagram creates a Nike ad and places in on the person’s profile page or otherwise places it in such a way that its placement implies an endorsement by the sports personality because of something the sports personality posted or uploaded, that could create an issue with Adidas.

If you bear in mind that “Content” is defined as follows, you get a sense of how broad these paragraphs are:

any data, text, files, information, usernames, images, graphics, photos, profiles, audio and video clips, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, links and other content or materials

Below is a comparison between the original 2013 version and the revised 2013 version. The marked up edits are changes from the original 2013 version to the revised 2013 version:

Other edits

Instagram also removed the odd insertion of the current terms after the Territorial Restrictions clause which was pretty odd. It also changed the revised Terms of Use’s implementation date to 19 January 2013.

The new Privacy Policy

Privacy Policies are really important documents. They are the means by which your consent to process your personal information is obtained and you agree to them when you start using a service or register for a service. You should read these privacy policies and adjust your privacy settings to suit your sharing preferences. We can’t emphasise this enough. As with most of the social services you use on the Web today, paying attention to your privacy settings and these sorts of documents is your only real tool for safeguarding your content and your personal information.

The new Instagram privacy policy which will be published in January 2013 highlights the linkages between Instagram and Facebook and how some of your personal information may be shared with Facebook and other “Affiliates”. The changes to the Privacy Policy are not quite as extensive as the changes from the current Terms of Use to the 2013 Terms of Use but there are a number of important edits.

For starters, the parties with whom Instagram may share your personal information have been somewhat expanded. This paragraph was added to the 2013 Privacy Policy:

We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates’ own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honor the choices you make about who can see your photos.

Notice the highlighted section? This is the permission you give Instagram to share your “User Content” and your personal information with Facebook and any other companies which become part of Facebook’s group of companies. In some respects, this is similar to Google’s recent move to consolidate its legal frameworks across various products and services. The term “User Content” is defined as follows:

content, including photos, comments and other materials

Another substantive change is the following paragraph which expands on a previous paragraph stating that Instagram would disclose personal information to law enforcement officials or otherwise where required by legal authority:

We may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so. This may include responding to legal requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law in that jurisdiction, affects users in that jurisdiction, and is consistent with internationally recognized standards.
We may also access, preserve and share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to: detect, prevent and address fraud and other illegal activity; to protect ourselves, you and others, including as part of investigations; and to prevent death or imminent bodily harm. Information we receive about you may be accessed, processed and retained for an extended period of time when it is the subject of a legal request or obligation, governmental investigation, or investigations concerning possible violations of
our terms or policies, or otherwise to prevent harm.

When it comes to storing your personal information, the amended Privacy Policy includes its Affiliates and, in some instances, Service Providers in the list of parties who may transfer and store your personal information. In practical terms this may mean Instagram can handle data somewhat more efficiently, such as taking advantage of Facebook’s new datacentres for storage.

Other than these more substantive changes, there aren’t many changes to the Privacy Policy. Below is a document highlighting changes from the current, 2012, Privacy Policy to the proposed 2013 version:

Media myths about the new Instagram Terms of Use

A number of media services are clinging to the idea that Instagram is selling users’ content and that Instagram has the right to do this in perpetuity. As usual, many of these media services have not taken the time to actually read and understand the Terms of Use or the changes that are coming next month.

The user-centric license model

The fundamental shift from the model in the current Terms of Use and in other services like Twitter and Flickr to the model in the new Terms of Use is pretty dramatic. The current model is, essentially, that Instagram can present ads to you, drawing on your personal information to make the ads more relevant to you. If you accept that you will be presented with ads to support the service that you otherwise use at no cost (aside from your attention and personal information), this model is not all that surprising.

This is what Flickr’s terms and conditions (actually, Yahoo’s, considering that Yahoo owns Flickr) say:

With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo! Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Yahoo! Services.

Similarly, Twitter’s terms of service have a slightly different approach and focus more on the license required to make Twitter users’ content (including photos) available both on Twitter.com as well as through companies working with Twitter to publish Twitter users’ content:

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

Tip: This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.

You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

Tip: Twitter has an evolving set of rules for how ecosystem partners can interact with your Content. These rules exist to enable an open ecosystem with your rights in mind. But what’s yours is yours – you own your Content (and your photos are part of that Content).

Essentially, the licenses found in the current Instagram Terms of Use, the Flickr/Yahoo Terms of Service and the Twitter Terms of Service focus on the following permissions:

  • Using users’ content and personal information to present targetted ads based on users’ preferences and profile data; and/or
  • Allowing the service and companies working with the service to publish users’ content as part of making the service available.

Typically these licenses are limited to the purpose for which the users make their personal information and content available.

The social influence license model

The new Instagram Terms of Use’s provisions dealing with users’ content and personal information mirror the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Both sets of terms and conditions have a different focus based on some user psychology which Facebook exploits pretty effectively. The basic idea here is that you, as a user, are more likely to be influenced by what your friends are doing on Facebook and Instagram. Unlike the user-centric license model where the emphasis is more on the user more or less in isolation, the social influence license model exploits the underlying social nature of these services and how they are architected.

This model is a smart evolution of a popular legal framework by adapting it to fit the social sharing model far better. This model focuses on associating users, their identities and their content with a brand or product based on their personal information and activity on the service (the example we used in our previous post was of a Facebook user who “liked” a brand).

So far this isn’t new to anyone who has used these services but two things emerge from the new paragraphs in the new Terms of Use. Firstly, Instagram isn’t so much selling users’ content as it is selling access to users, their content and personal information to brands. Secondly, by relieving itself of the obligation to point out when ads are ads (or similar sponsored content or promotional updates), Instagram gives itself the freedom to present these ads and sponsored content as if they were updates and posts voluntarily published by users as endorsements of the particular brands or products.

Why do they do this? Well, it’s pretty simple. Other users will be more likely to take more of an interest in brands or products their friends seem to be interested in. The catch is that the users apparently endorsing those brands and products through an apparent association with them may not even be aware that they have been associated with those brands or products. In fact, as some commentators have pointed out, the person associated with the brand or product may not even be the user who published the content but rather other people in the photos concerned.

You could find that a photo of your kids has been used to promote kids’ toys or some recreational activity without your knowledge. Kids between the ages of 13 and 18 could be used to promote some trendy service and Instagram creates a presumption that the teenagers’ parents or guardians have consented through assumptions in the Terms of Use (which may not have occurred anyway), leaving these kids to prove they didn’t obtain the consent in the first place. This may not even be legal in countries with stricter privacy laws.

Put another way

Comparing the current Instagram Terms of Use to the new Terms of Use could also be framed as follows:

Targeted ads vs selling social engineering to advertisers

Content sales is an indirect benefit of the new licensing model but it is not what the new licensing model is all about. Exploiting our relationships with each other and the underlying social referral dynamic of the social Web is what the new Instagram Terms of Use and Facebook’s revised legal framework are designed for.

The Facebookification of Instagram’s Terms of Use

Update (2012-12-21): Instagram has published a revised version of the Terms of Use. You can read about the changes in our follow-up post.

Instagram_Icon_LargeInstagram announced changes to its Terms of Use and Privacy Policy in an innocuous blog post on 17 December 2012:

Our community has grown a lot since we wrote our original terms of service. To get things up to date for the millions of people now using Instagram, we’re bringing you new versions of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Here are a few key updates:

  • Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.
  • Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.
  • Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.

This is just a small preview. Our new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service will be effective on January 16, 2013.

We know these documents are a little dry, but they’re very important. Please take a moment to read through them so you keep feeling comfortable sharing your beautiful photos on Instagram.

A closer look at both updates reveals a number of changes and a few concerns which are not mentioned in this brief blog post.

New Terms of Use

To begin with, the new Terms of Use are dramatically expanded and run to over 6 000 words, compared to the current version’s 1 000-odd words. Comparing the two sets of Terms of Use side by side reveals that many of the changes are expanded versions of existing provisions but there are quite a few more substantive changes lurking within these expanded clauses and we have highlighted many of the more significant changes below. The way we have structured this review is by reference to the headings used in the documents. Where the headings are the same, we just used the heading title for both versions. Where the heading titles are different, we use the format “Old Heading / New Heading” so you can follow along with us if you are inclined to do so.

Basic Terms

This section is essentially a sort of acceptable use policy for the service and has been fairly dramatically expanded. For example, paragraph 3 of the current version states the following:

You are responsible for any activity that occurs under your screen name.

The same paragraph in the new version states the following:

You are responsible for any activity that occurs through your account and you agree you will not sell, transfer, license or assign your account, followers, username, or any account rights. With the exception of people or businesses that are expressly authorized to create accounts on behalf of their employers or clients, Instagram prohibits the creation of and you agree that you will not create an account for anyone other than yourself. You also represent that all information you provide or provided to Instagram upon registration and at all other times will be true, accurate, current and complete and you agree to update your information as necessary to maintain its truth and accuracy.

This particular change was more of an expansion of a relatively simple version of the paragraph. There are quite a few of these sorts of changes in this section of the new Terms of Use.

General Conditions

While not really a change to the Terms of Use, this section includes a new version of the following paragraph allowing for changes to the Terms of Use:

We reserve the right to alter these Terms of Use at any time. If the alterations constitute a material change to the Terms of Use, we will notify you via internet mail according to the preference expressed on your account. What constitutes a “material change” will be determined at our sole discretion, in good faith and using common sense and reasonable judgement.

The new paragraph is very similar to the amended counterpart in Facebook’s Terms of Service and it is one of the clauses which reveals the Facebook integration and influence over Instagram’s operations:

We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to change these Terms of Use (“Updated Terms“) from time to time. Unless we make a change for legal or administrative reasons, we will provide reasonable advance notice before the Updated Terms become effective. You agree that we may notify you of the Updated Terms by posting them on the Service, and that your use of the Service after the effective date of the Updated Terms (or engaging in such other conduct as we may reasonably specify) constitutes your agreement to the Updated Terms. Therefore, you should review these Terms of Use and any Updated Terms before using the Service. The Updated Terms will be effective as of the time of posting, or such later date as may be specified in the Updated Terms, and will apply to your use of the Service from that point forward. These Terms of Use will govern any disputes arising before the effective date of the Updated Terms.

This new clause is somewhat vague about which sorts of updates would trigger a notification to you and, even if Instagram does notify you about a change, your notification could be a publication to the Service. This means that you need to be fairly vigilant when it comes to updates to the Terms of Use and you should check in on the application version from time to time if this sort of thing concerns you.

It’s worth noting that Instagram reserves the right to take your username away in some circumstances. This isn’t new but given how much attention Facebook pays to brands and accommodating them in its services, your username could be vulnerable if it corresponds with a brand, among other things. The clause in the new Terms of Use is somewhat broader than the existing paragraphs 4 and 6 which state the following:

We reserve the right to force forfeiture of any username that becomes inactive, violates trademark, or may mislead other users.

….

We reserve the right to reclaim usernames on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those usernames.

The new paragraph 5 simply states the following:

We reserve the right to force forfeiture of any username for any reason.

A new paragraph 8 in the updated Terms of Use both acknowledges the more connected nature of the Instagram service and possible integrations with third party services:

There may be links from the Service, or from communications you receive from the Service, to third-party web sites or features. There may also be links to third-party web sites or features in images or comments within the Service. The Service also includes third-party content that we do not control, maintain or endorse. Functionality on the Service may also permit interactions between the Service and a third-party web site or feature, including applications that connect the Service or your profile on the Service with a third-party web site or feature. For example, the Service may include a feature that enables you to share Content from the Service or your Content with a third party, which may be publicly posted on that third party’s service or application. Using this functionality typically requires you to login to your account on the third-party service and you do so at your own risk. Instagram does not control any of these third-party web services or any of their content. You expressly acknowledge and agree that Instagram is in no way responsible or liable for any such third-party services or features. YOUR CORRESPONDENCE AND BUSINESS DEALINGS WITH THIRD PARTIES FOUND THROUGH THE SERVICE ARE SOLELY BETWEEN YOU AND THE THIRD PARTY. You may choose, at your sole and absolute discretion and risk, to use applications that connect the Service or your profile on the Service with a third-party service (each, an “Application”) and such Application may interact with, connect to or gather and/or pull information from and to your Service profile. By using such Applications, you acknowledge and agree to the following: (i) if you use an Application to share information, you are consenting to information about your profile on the Service being shared; (ii) your use of an Application may cause personally identifying information to be publicly disclosed and/or associated with you, even if Instagram has not itself provided such information; and (iii) your use of an Application is at your own option and risk, and you will hold the Instagram Parties (defined below) harmless for activity related to the Application.

Aside from the obvious application to services that are not Instagram and the possibility that your Instagram profile and content may be integrated into those services, the way the key term “Service” has been defined introduces the possibility that Facebook may be one such “third-party web site”. “Service” is defined as “the Instagram website, the Instagram service, or any applications (including mobile applications) made available by Instagram”. This doesn’t appear to include Facebook so whenever you see a reference to “third-party web sites”, bear in mind this could well include Facebook and enable a workaround for the restrictions Instagram imposes on itself in the Terms of Use.

Proprietary Rights in Content on Instagram / Rights

This section has changed quite a bit and is the source of some justifiable concern.

Content Licensing

As a starting point and, in anticipation of media hype and interpretive challenges, Instagram does not claim ownership of any of you content. The big question is how broad the license it takes from you is and what that license enables Instagram to do? The current license basically states the following:

By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.

I added the emphasis on the core license scope. The new license states the following (I added the emphasis):

you hereby grant to Instagram 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, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here: http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/.

Notice how the publicity of private content shifts from no disclosure outside the Instagram Service to being able to control “certain of your Content and activities”. The new privacy policy includes this new addition to the section about sharing your personal information which is not in the current (soon to be old) privacy policy:

We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates’ own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honor the choices you make about who can see your photos.

What this means is that, under the new Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, your personal information and Content can be shared with Facebook and other companies that become part of Facebook’s group of companies. The way the Privacy Policy is framed, you agree to this merely by using the Service. Depending on how you feel about Facebook accessing your Instagram content and personal information shared with Instagram, this could be a big concern for you.

Returning to the licenses, the new license introduces two important permissions: the ability to transfer or even sub-license the license you grant to Instagram. The license doesn’t limit who the rights you grant can be transferred or sub-licensed to (and the new license wording even drops the reference to a “limited license” in the current license wording although that phrase may be redundant) and doesn’t go into much detail regarding what “use” entails. The current license is more specific and allows Instagram to –

use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels …

The new wording is pretty vague and broad and one interpretive question is what “use” encompasses in the context of the new wording?

Advertising

This part of the new wording is pretty worrying. It concerns advertising revenue and the change from the current wording to the new wording is dramatic. The current paragraph 2 states te following (I added the emphasis):

Some of the Instagram Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.

This sort of provision is pretty common. You get to use these services for free and, in return, the companies operating the services make money by presenting you with advertisements. You may not like it but these services cost money to operate and these providers have typically worked to maintain a balance between presenting advertising in the most compelling way with not alienating users. The new wording in the Terms of Use not only expand this mechanism, they change the model dramatically and with the result that you truly are the product. This is what the new paragraphs 2 and 3 say (once again, I added emphasis):

  1. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

  2. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Pseudo-endorsement ads on Facebook-2This model takes the advertising mechanism beyond simply displaying ads in a way that you can see them. It brings you into the advertisements by using your image, your photos and metadata like location as well as your actions (liking or commenting on something, perhaps) and associating that personal information and content with the advertisements. This is something Facebook has been doing for a while and it implies an endorsement. Paragraph 3 stops just short of stating that Instagram will use your content and personal information to imply an endorsement of a company or its products without clarifying that the advertisement is, in fact, an advertisement that was paid for or sponsored.

While the more conventional display ad model raises privacy concerns with how the ads are targeted, this new model potentially has privacy, reputational and even commercial implications for Instagram users. A person may not wish to be so closely associated with a brand or a product for various reasons. That person may already be associated with a competitor as part of a commercial arrangement or the brand or product the user is associated with through this advertising model may run contrary to the user’s beliefs and preferences. This new mechanism gives Instagram the ability to trade off your identity, personal information and your Content and it begs the question whether the cost of using the Instagram service isn’t becoming a little too high?

Facebook has a very similar mechanism in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:

About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook

Our goal is to deliver ads and commercial content that are valuable to our users and advertisers. In order to help us do that, you agree to the following:

  1. You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place.
  2. We do not give your content or information to advertisers without your consent.
  3. You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.

Unlike the Facebook model (which is almost as invasive), the Instagram model doesn’t include an option to restrict this form of advertising using privacy settings in the wording itself. If you consider that Instagram is also available to minors from the age of 13, children under the age of 18 could find their identity, content and other personal information associated with brands and products without their knowledge (at least until their friends let them know) on the flawed assumption that they have their parents’ or guardian’s consent.

Other additions

The current Terms of Use pretty much stops at this point but the new Terms of Use includes a series of additional sections including the following:

  • Reporting Copyright and Other IP Violations;
  • Disclaimer of Warranties;
  • Limitation of Liability; Waiver;
  • Indemnification;
  • Arbitration;
  • Time Limitation on Claims;
  • Governing Law & Venue;
  • Entire Agreement; and
  • a very interesting section titled “Territorial Restrictions”.

This last section is a bit like the secret scene at the end of a movie. The premise of this section is as follows:

The information provided within the Service is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject Instagram to any registration requirement within such jurisdiction or country. We reserve the right to limit the availability of the Service or any portion of the Service, to any person, geographic area, or jurisdiction, at any time and in our sole discretion, and to limit the quantities of any content, program, product, service or other feature that Instagram provides.

Immediately below this section is a copy of the current Terms of Use. What is odd about this is that there is no indication what purpose repeating the current Terms of Use has. Are the old Terms of Use meant to apply where territorial restrictions render the new Terms of Use unlawful or unenforceable? Was this just an error when the new Terms of Use page was prepared? It this was intentional it looks as if the current Terms of Use may be a fall back set of terms and conditions if the new Terms of Use is legally problematic in some region outside the United States.

Either way, it is very odd.


As you noticed, we haven’t dealt with the new Privacy Policy in much detail in this post. We’ll explore the changes to the Privacy Policy in a further article.