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Class-Action Lawsuit Goes After Instagram Terms of Service Changes 59

Posted by timothy
from the for-users-read-lawyers dept.
New submitter Alex Belits writes "Users of the Instagram image sharing service owned by Facebook filed a class action against Facebook for the recent change in Terms of Service." The changes that were supposed to take effect on January 16, 2013 declared for Facebook an unlimited right to use and license users' photos, added an arbitration requirement for legal disputes, and more. Guess the lawyers involved here weren't impressed enough by Facebook's hasty back-pedaling on this front; the company did explicitly disclaim ownership interest in the uploaded photos after a wave of complaints, but left in place certain other clauses in the new terms.
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Class-Action Lawsuit Goes After Instagram Terms of Service Changes

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    They're suing Instagram for proposed, and now recanted, ToS changes?

    I think Instagram's shenanigans were sneaky, and their backpedaling was disingenuous, but this type of suit is another reason our court system has become a laughing stock.

    • Obligatory xkcd (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:09AM (#42387171)

      http://xkcd.com/1150/ [xkcd.com]

      Anyone who expects stuff like this for free should think twice.
      Then again, anyone who uses Instagram is an idiot, but that's a different story.

      • I disagree with xkcd's take on this. Xkcd is proposing that the instagram situation is captured in this analogy:

        * Paul puts lots of stuff in Iggy's garage
        * Iggy gets sick of Paul freeloading, because Iggy has limited garage space and the agreement between Paul and Iggy was either unspecified or for limited-term, and Iggy feels that whatever length of time Paul's stuff has been there exceeds social etiquette / good taste.
        * Iggy notifies Paul that he (Iggy) will get rid of Paul's stuff if he doesn't clear it

        • Re:Obligatory xkcd (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @03:29PM (#42389469)

          You're right. But you're missing one detail in your corrected analogy: There is no direct benefit for Fred-Iggy if they run a business for free. Something has to be sold to someone in some way.

          My interpretation of the whole process goes like this, based on your two interpretations:

          * Iggy asks Paul to use his garage to store stuff for free, which attracts Paul
          * Paul puts lots of stuff in Iggy's garage
          * Iggy hides his intention to sell the stuff off OR genuinely did not plan on selling the stuff and has no idea how to make money
          * Behind the scenes, Fred buys Iggy's assets for an obscene amount of cash, again revealing evil plans OR no business sense
          * At this point, Iggy has tons of stuff he can't use directly and is paying storage costs for
          * Fred-Iggy decide to monetize (due to malice or shareholder pressure) their assets: the stuff they're keeping
          * Paul gets upset because he believes he's the customer for Fred-Iggy's service, while Fred-Iggy see him as a source of material that can be sold to a third-party
          * Fred-Iggy have a notorious policy of doing way more than just storing and displaying according to your rules what you gave them: they harvest everything they can about you to sell it to whoever wants the information

          In conclusion, both parties are made up of morons. The difference between them being that Facebook-Instagram are just acting the way they're expected to in their role of an evil faceless (even though Facebook's not faceless, no pun intended) corporation, by stepping on the general public. Meanwhile the users expected all sorts of things for free, oppose to having their data sold off to the highest bidder (and rightly so) and are surprised by that move (nobody with half a brain should be surprised by now). And that's ignoring the fact that instagram has alternatives (dropbox, google drive, skydrive, iCloud) which are far more reputable and are only not chosen because of the possibility of taking a crappy cell phone picture and making it even worse by cropping and applying a tacky filter, making it "artistic".

          tl;dr Facebook/Instagram are overhyped crap and I have little to no sympathy for anyone who expects Facebook to run a charity business.

      • "Anyone who expects stuff like this for free should think twice."

        Nobody is expecting anything for free. They are expecting that Instagram will serve up advertisements. The xkcd comic misses the mark, because in a correct analogy Chad would be getting paid by companies to post their advertisements in line of sight of the garage entry way while our protagonist - and everyone else, including but not necessarily limited to his friends - stops by to look at his stuff. Also, in the comic, Chad didn't post ads

        • You have a point, but nobody should really be surprised, since facebook has done this kind of crap before.
          Furthermore, the fact that people aren't abandoning instagram/facebook en masse just proves that in the end they don't care and are too lazy to change.

  • by Mr. Tom Guycot (1298343) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:26AM (#42386979)
    It wasn't even back-pedaling, just word soup. They never claimed ownership, just a license to use them as they wished, and their later statement never went back on THAT.
    • by k_187 (61692)
      Exactly, doesn't matter who owns them when you're granting them a license to do what they want.
  • Human hypocrisy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When Facebook uses the content we create for free it's bad, but when we use other people's content for free RIAA is bad!

    • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:54AM (#42387087) Homepage

      When Facebook uses the content we create for free it's bad, but when we use other people's content for free RIAA is bad!

      I know you're trying to make a point, but the situation isn't really comparable. For one, pirates do not claim ownership over the content, and secondly, pirates can't legally make money out of it whereas when a company imposes a ToS - change like this on its userbase they actually CAN then legally make money out of your content. That makes the whole premise of the situation quite different, with pirates mostly focusing on consuming the content themselves, and companies focusing on monetizing the content.

      • by Jetra (2622687)

        I know you're trying to make a point, but the situation isn't really comparable. For one, pirates do not claim ownership over the content, and secondly, pirates can't legally make money out of it whereas when a company imposes a ToS - change like this on its userbase they actually CAN then legally make money out of your content. That makes the whole premise of the situation quite different, with pirates mostly focusing on consuming the content themselves, and companies focusing on monetizing the content.

        And that is the reason I'm indifferent to pirates. I may not like them, but they are a necessary evil in this day and age.

        • by Nyder (754090)

          I know you're trying to make a point, but the situation isn't really comparable. For one, pirates do not claim ownership over the content, and secondly, pirates can't legally make money out of it whereas when a company imposes a ToS - change like this on its userbase they actually CAN then legally make money out of your content. That makes the whole premise of the situation quite different, with pirates mostly focusing on consuming the content themselves, and companies focusing on monetizing the content.

          And that is the reason I'm indifferent to pirates. I may not like them, but they are a necessary evil in this day and age.

          I'm a pirate and it's okay, I still like you.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Therefore your point is that Corporations like Facebook are an order of magnitude worse than the typical pirate.

        I completely agree.

        • a thieving person can ruin your day.

          a thieving corporation can ruin your whole life.

          • by fatphil (181876)
            That's one dimension, but there is a second:

            A thieving person can ruin a handful of people's days.

            A thieving corporation can ruin millions of people's days.
    • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:57AM (#42387105)

      Not a bad comparison, though there is a difference between sharing and selling. Namely, the exchange of money. If Facebook/Instagram said your photos would be copylefted, I don't think people would object as much. But profiting from other people's work is a little shadier than just giving it away.

    • When Facebook uses the content we create for free it's bad, but when we use other people's content for free RIAA is bad!

      The folks with the most money: hire the best lawyers, buy the best Congressfolks and bribe the best judges.

      They decide what is good and bad. Hell, they even direct the FBI to execute major dubious law enforcement activities in New Zeeland.

      To Godwin this thread early: "the company did explicitly disclaim ownership interest in the uploaded photos after a wave of complaints"

      "Hitler did explicitly disclaim ownership interest in starting WW2 after a wave of complaints"

      On my cynical side, who really believed

    • by X.25 (255792)

      When Facebook uses the content we create for free it's bad, but when we use other people's content for free RIAA is bad!

      Facebook is (supposed to be) profiting from that 'usage'. People downloading movies off the Internet are not.

      I understand the difference might be really hard to spot, but at least try.

    • When Facebook SELLS the content we create for A FEEit's bad, but when we USE, BUT DO NOT SELL other people's content for free RIAA is bad!
  • They have no cause (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aepervius (535155) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:34AM (#42387015)
    They can simply refuse the new term of service, and their photo will not be covered by the new TOS meaning instagram/FB won't be able to use them anyway. Naturally they lose usage of their photo but hey, so is life when you trust some random company with your stuff when you are obviously the "product" of that company. But i see no cause to sue the lawsuit will prolly be rejected at judge level.

    http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/instagram.png [xkcd.com]
    • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:21AM (#42387235) Homepage Journal

      There's plenty of cause to the suit.

      Look up "Contract of Adhesion" then re-read the old and revised TOS.

      There is literally no 'meeting of the minds' here and the new/old EUA/TOS is quite overreaching with regards to personal copyright.

      • by Spamalope (91802)
        Exactly.

        Show me the facebook owned property that allows you to delete pictures or your account. facebook allows you to stop publicly serving pictures in feeds. They'll often still serve the pictures to anyone with the link. Public information indicates that facebook never, ever deletes user information including 'deleted' pictures. They won't even allow you to delete an account. Instagram is now a facebook property.

        The TOS took every right of ownership except liability. If I used the service I'd be appal

    • by Nyder (754090)

      They can simply refuse the new term of service, and their photo will not be covered by the new TOS meaning instagram/FB won't be able to use them anyway. Naturally they lose usage of their photo but hey, so is life when you trust some random company with your stuff when you are obviously the "product" of that company. But i see no cause to sue the lawsuit will prolly be rejected at judge level.

      http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/instagram.png [xkcd.com]

      but what happens to the photos that are already on it?

  • by Holistic Missile (976980) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:40AM (#42387021)
    If you don't agree with the terms, don't use it. No one's forcing you to.

    I don't have, and never will have, a Facebook account due to privacy concerns (data mining, etc.), and concerns over use/abuse of users' writing/photos/whatever.

    Anyone can use your photos/whatever for whatever they want - the general consensus seems to be that if it's on the internet, it's free to use. ZDNet got called out on a photo lifted from another website in a recent article/blog entry in the comments to that article. The author/blogger's response was 'Oh, is that where that came from?' I don't agree in any way with big media's take on copyright, but at least give credit, or better yet, ask permission, for something you're using.

    If you don't want people using your photos, don't post them publicly on the internet. Try this: open a browser window to images.google.com, and drag a photo from another website onto the input field. Look at how many places it shows up! Try it with some of your Facebook photos - you may be surprised!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't have, and never will have, a Facebook account due to privacy concerns...

      Are you in the USA? If so, you may be a bit naive. As Facebook growth quickly slows, they know they will need more users in order to allow their early employees and favorite stockholders to exit with a big pile 'o cash. At that point, the newly minted cabinet member or senator (Zuckerberg) will remind people of how we "need" a national "Net ID" to combat anonymity and to "think of the children" and "prevent terrorist attacks". E

    • by sacrilicious (316896) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @01:23PM (#42388351) Homepage

      If you don't agree with the terms, don't use it. No one's forcing you to.

      Consider this similar logic: "If you don't like the Patriot act, don't live in the USA. No one's forcing you to."

      This "free market" response to such issues is bullshit. The free market works when there is a lot of varied competition and when there is near-zero cost to transitioning from vendor to vendor. Neither is true in the case of picking a place to live, and neither is true in the case of Instagram. And when you try to pretend that free markets solve all and therefor nobody should give a damn, you make me want to blow your ass away with my 12-guage. Don't like it? Go live on a planet without guns.

    • Like you I have privacy concerns with Facebook. But after X years I have to wonder what damage FB has done to in any regards to my information? I get less junk mail then ever before, I don't see targeted web ads (does anyone?) and I am not a huge consumer other then my esoteric areas of interest. Where is the harm of Facebook? So for you not worth it and for me it is. Both are acceptable positions but a class action lawsuit seems not applicable? How could the criteria for harm be shown?
  • annoys (Score:3, Funny)

    by sacrilicious (316896) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:09AM (#42387173) Homepage
    From the article:

    "We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an e-mail.

    So this guy's name is "A. Noyes". I find that fitting somehow.

    (I usually don't go for the ad hominem humor, but can't help myself in this case, sorry)

  • I dont have an Instragram account, so i didn't pay too much attention to the hype around the ToS changes. What I did gleam from it was the change saying Instagram could sell your images without paying you a dime or even letting you know about it. That's essentially what Facebook's user agreement says without expressly saying so. You own the content, but they sub-license it. IE. They do what they want and you're screwed.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @12:49PM (#42388063) Journal

    ...book of lies?

  • by assertation (1255714) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @02:02PM (#42388747)

    The Instagram move has to be the most brain dead decision from the tech world since Google Buzz.

    In both situations any ordinary person would be asking themselves

    "How could they NOT think that this decision would upset their users, big time?"

    To be un-PC, not everyone who works in tech, especially management has an autism spectrum disorder.

    That leaves management surronding themselves with and reweard synchophants.........yes men, who insulate them from reality, letting them make assinine decisions like this one.

    They deserve to be sued.

  • So your buddy Joe lets you borrow his car whenever you want. He has a GPS and his car is so efficient he actually makes money by selling the GPS data on which stores you went to. One day he tells you, "If you want to keep using my car you have to let me take pictures from any angle of you or your stuff at any time you're in the car and sell them".

    He regularly sends you long, long boring letters that you both know you don't read and this stipulation is hidden inside one of them.

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