Chances are if you’ve been online in the past two days, you’ve seen the outcries over Instagram’s new Terms of Service and what it means for users’ photos. You might have even read a post or two suggesting that the new terms position the photo-sharing giant to become a new type of stock photo resource – one that will sell content to advertisers without permission from – or compensation to – the creator of the photo. While we can’t speak on Instagram’s behalf, we may be able to shed some light on what their recent changes mean (or don’t mean) for people who need and use stock imagery.

First, some background: All businesses need images. In order for a business to use an image in a commercial context (such as to promote its product or service), it must have permission from both the artist and any individuals depicted by that image. If a business uses imagery without this permission, they expose themselves to the risk of being sued.

Shutterstock is a trusted source for commercially released images.  We have delivered more than 250 million paid downloads in our history and we license more than two images per second.  Our team reviews every image before making it available in our collection. We require government-issued photo identification to become a contributor and signed model releases for every image that depicts a person. Through this review process, Shutterstock protects businesses that license content through our site against potential legal action.

Instagram’s new terms do not set the service up to be an alternative for businesses in need of stock images. According to Instagram, the changes to their terms were meant to facilitate new advertising approaches within Instagram, NOT the license of Instagram images for commercial use. Co-founder Kevin Systrom stated:

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.

He added:

The language we proposed also raised questions 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.”

To be clear, we love Instagram. They play an important role in social photography and are a fun place to discover great photos. That said, we do not view the recent changes to their terms as having significant implications for the way that stock images will be bought or sold. So go on, keep Instagramming (if you so desire) and keep uploading or downloading images from Shutterstock. If you’re a business, you can rest easy knowing commercial images on Shutterstock have been vetted and approved for commercial and editorial use.

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Thank you,
Director, Communications