Instagram is a common part of our culture. We regularly share photos in it. This allows for a much better understanding of everyone s life, but also creates a dilemma – where is the line between user-generated content (UGC), which brands can use for their own purposes, and personal photos of a person? What is proper Instagram etiquette for using user generated content?
The New York Times recently published an article covering this topic. The woman shared a photo of her daughter on Crocs, used the Crocs hashtag to tag the photo, but was very unhappy when she discovered that Crocs used her photo on his website in a user-generated photo gallery.
If someone publicly posts a photo and tagged a brand, does they agree that the brand is using that photo? Or does a brand always need to get permission from the user to post a photo? Issues related to the right to privacy and anonymity for individuals, as well as the right to obtain permission for brands, are not yet fully understood by the Internet community.
Reposting social content
Before the advent of social media, the rights to photographs were limited – if a photograph was used for publication, the photographer was paid for it.
However, when user-generated content infiltrates the social realm, there have been numerous assumptions about what is acceptable and what is not in terms of business rights in photography. For example, professional freelance photographer Daniel Morel sued Agence France-Presse for publishing one of his photographs without permission.
The news feed claims that by uploading the images to Twitter, Morel indirectly gave them permission to distribute and reproduce his photo. Morel won the case because Twitter s Terms of Service state that users retain the rights to what they post, with the exception of Twitter and its partners. Instagram s terms of service are also in line with them.
Read also our material on the correct use of emoji on Instagram.
Is the attribution of the photo sufficient?
A common social media tactic is for brands to use user photos, not always asking permission, but pointing out whose photo it is. We ve all seen this many times, but it s not clear which users explicitly gave permission and which didn t.
However, many users are happy if their photo is used by a brand in this way. There is a fine line here, as not everyone will like this approach. In such cases, it is definitely best to go the safer and more legal route and always ask permission.
How to request permission to use a photo
Now that we know we should always ask permission before posting or reposting someone else s photo on Instagram, what is the best way to do this?
There are several options:
Option 2: Another way to get permission for a particular photo is to request information about the photo itself.
The Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, California does just that. In addition to the recommendations for social networks regarding UCG, set out in the rules, they comment on user photos:
The comment does a lot of things well. First, the post opens with a user-friendly comment, adding a human element to the conversation. The post then uses the words “With your permission” to remove any ambiguity.
Option 3: There are now many platforms and services designed for brands to ask users if they can use their content. One such example is a content rights protection solution developed by TINT, which creates various social media display tools.
The solution allows you to find content related to your brand, request the appropriate permissions from the author of the image via social networks, and track which images you have rights to.
While services such as TINT make it easier to obtain permits, legal subtleties are still defined by the brand. The agreement may include confirmation from the author of the post that he owns the image and that he has permission from the subject of the photo.
If you don t have the resources for a third-party UGC tool, just ask to repost their photos on Instagram and wait patiently for their response, as Pantone did here:
It s definitely better to play it safe than to regret it later because of the negative consequences. It s better to get permission before using someone else s photo. We hope that, thanks to the different ways of asking for consent (and there will undoubtedly be more in the future), incomprehensible questions in this area will become clearer and more understandable!