Instagram’s Absurd New Terms of Use Agreement Is Already Being Called Its 'Suicide Note’

Instagram, the massively popular photo sharing site purchased this year by Facebook, released its latest "Terms of Use" today, to the consternation of many of its more than seven million daily users. Most of the rules, which officially take effect January 16, include rational things like "no porn" and "you must be 13 to use Instagram." But a couple are rightfully pissing people off:

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.

and

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

Instagram makes sure to clarify that it doesn't "own" your images, but that's of little import when they immediately follow up that assurance by saying they'll still be allowed to hustle your pictures for commercial purposes with impunity. What's worse, there is no way to opt out of these Instagram requirements. You can choose to either use the service and cede control of your images—which probably include a lot of pictures of you, your friends, and your loved ones—or not use the service.

Clayton Cubitt, a New York-based photographer popular on Instagram, dubbed the new terms of use "Instagram's suicide note," a sentiment with which hundreds of people have agreed thus far. But it's worth noting that this kind of crazy commercialization of social media isn't so crazy anymore.

"These kinds of terms are pretty common these days, which is unfortunate, because some of them border on the ridiculous," says Woodrow Hartzog, an assistant professor at Samford University law school who writes frequently about law and the internet. Hartzog says that Instagram needs some level of copyright control user images because "many copies of user content are created via ordinary operation of the website." But he adds, "I think it is fair to question the scope of many of these terms as potentially outside of the realm of what is required to operate. It's no secret that users rarely read and understand these terms, so companies have little incentive to draft user-friendly agreements."

In other words, until people start actually paying attention and demanding that tech companies stop overreaching when it comes to abusing user content, it's unlikely anything will change. Not that any of this should be a surprise, really. As Metafilter user blue_beetle famously put it in 2010: "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."