I’ve been quite restrained about the whole Instagram thing. This is mostly because it’s not really that important – if you don’t like what they suggested they might do, then leave. To me, it’s the same situation those who complain about a television programme are in – there’s the ability to switch over, or off.

Personally, I enjoyed the community that the platform provided – you didn’t need to be a professional photographer, as in my mind it wasn’t even about ‘photography’. That was secondary. It was about snapping life moments and sharing them with people who could then comment and fave, etc. There are those who primarily use Instagram as a platform for photography, but I think it’s wrong to do so.

I’ve moved over to Flickr, which has finally done something decent with its smartphone app. But it’s a poor second place to Instagram in terms of community. Flickr is about photography and community it secondary.

What really did actually annoy me were the many people on Twitter who said comments along the following lines:

“You people don’t mind stealing music from an artist, but have a hissy fit when it’s your shitty photos!”

Cue loads of re-Tweets and back-slapping.

I actually felt something close to anger reading those Tweets. Because it was so wrong. And here’s why.

When a song or other piece of artistic collateral, which someone relies on to make a living, is downloaded for free, that person has not had their privacy violated.

Neither has an Instagram user, whose photo is used for an advert on Facebook, had their copyright infringed. Especially if the terms and conditions of using the free platform allow for ‘creative commons’ usage and the account is in the public domain.

To suggest they have – or that the artist’s privacy has been violated – is stupidity. But hey, it was a good soundbite that people seized upon and spat back out without really thinking about it.

Basically I’m saying Instagram users who want to protect the privacy of their friends (of whom they may have taken photos), or of their families, have every right to say they’re unhappy and delete their account.  I’m not sure if you take a selfie you’re all that into privacy, but I guess that’s a different subject I’m not willing to tackle here.

Once the photos are liberated and the Instagram account closed, they are then free of those terms and they gain complete copyright control of their (shitty?) photos. If Instagram, or its parent company, Facebook, then goes on to sell those photos without permission, you’re welcome to revisit your analogy. Until then, find other ways of protecting artists’ copyright, because with 3D printing, simpler file-sharing protocols and the further digitisation of artistic work, we’re about to see a heck of a lot more non-payment channels and copyright infringement.

And photos – shitty or not – will be the least of our worries.

UPDATE: A rather good Instagram-related post about tone of voice and how people seemingly missed the point about their initial announcement and subsequent back-tracking can be found over at Asbury & Asbury.

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