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One of the bigger tech stories going on right now is the whirlwind Instagram created with its new polices that claim the right to sell your photos without payment or notification.

Or at least that’s what thousands of angry people thought. However, it looks like there was a little misinterpretation.

The Verge pointed this out earlier today, and Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom scribed a blog post titled “Thank you, and we’re listening” a few hours ago to clear the air about the language in the new policy and to say that his company will update its terms of service in more easy-to-understand lingo.

Many assumed that the new language in Instagram’s policies meant that Instagram would start selling user-generated photos to companies for advertisements without compensation. For example, a hotel in Seattle might purchase your Instagram photo of the Seattle skyline for an ad.

But Systrom ensures that Facebook-owned Instagram is not “selling” your photos to anyone anytime soon. He does note that brands and companies may be able to pay to have their photos promoted in your feed, and you’d be able to see which of your friends follow a company or brand. The model is similar to the sponsored posts on Facebook.

“We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period,” he writes.

Here’s the statement in full. Note the second paragraph in the “Advertising on Instagram” portion — Systrom offers insight to how Instagram might make money from advertising on the site:

Thank you, and we’re listening
Yesterday we introduced a new version of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service that will take effect in thirty days. These two documents help communicate as clearly as possible our relationship with the users of Instagram so you understand how your data will be used, and the rules that govern the thriving and active Instagram community. Since making these changes, we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean.I’m writing this today to let you know we’re listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion. As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.
Legal documents are easy to misinterpret. So I’d like to address specific concerns we’ve heard from everyone:

Advertising on Instagram From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.

The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.

Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

I always want you to feel comfortable sharing your photos on Instagram and we will always work hard to foster and respect our community and go out of our way to support its rights.

Privacy Settings Nothing has changed about the control you have over who can see your photos. If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you. We hope that this simple control makes it easy for everyone to decide what level of privacy makes sense.

I am grateful to everyone for their feedback and that we have a community that cares so much. We need to be clear about changes we make — this is our responsibility to you. One of the main reasons these documents don’t take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now, is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns. You’ve done that and are doing that, and that will help us provide the clarity you deserve. Thank you for your help in making sure that Instagram continues to thrive and be a community that we’re all proud of. Please stay tuned for updates coming soon.


Kevin Systrom co-founder, Instagram

There you go. Instagram isn’t out to steal your soul and rake in millions off your artwork, although people still believe that. Here’s some advice from MG Siegler over at Tech Crunch:

My suggestion for the next time a situation like this happens — probably in a week or so: shut up, take a deep breath, and think. Use common sense. Just because a service is big and popular, it doesn’t mean they’re out to get you. In fact, it’s probably safe to assume that none of them are. Because if they were, they’d be done. No one is forcing anyone to use them. And torturing puppies isn’t a proven business model.

Previously on GeekWire: Instagram, Allrecipies break records on Thanksgiving

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