The use of Instagram has become commonplace inside our society. On a regular basis, we show one other images of everything from our meals to our children and everything in between.

While this does provide a tremendous degree of insight into everyone’s life, it also introduces a conundrum that has never been seen before: where should the line be drawn between user-generated content (UGC) that marketers may exploit for their own reasons and the personal images of an individual? What are the guidelines for repurposing user-generated content on Instagram?

The scandal was just brought to light in an article that appeared in the New York Times. A mother posted a picture on social media of her daughter wearing Crocs and tagged it with the brand’s hashtag. She then realised that Crocs had published the picture on their website as part of their user-generated content photo gallery, and she felt as though she had been violated.

When someone publicly shares a photo on social media and identifies a company, does it mean they give their permission for the brand to use the shot? If a user’s photo is posted by a company, does the business always require the user’s explicit permission?

It is no longer clear who has the right to privacy and anonymity for individuals and who has the right to authorization for brands. This has created a grey area in each of these areas.

The Practice of Reposting Social Content Is Breaking New Ground

In the days before the rise of social media, the ownership of image rights was very clear: if a publisher wanted to use a photo, they had to pay the photographer.

The proliferation of user-generated content (UGC) throughout the social sphere has, on the other hand, led to a number of presumptions regarding the rights that belong to businesses in relation to photographs. Having said that, a case that was heard in the United States District Court in 2013 made the line between “who owns what” more evident.

Daniel Morel, a freelance professional photographer, filed a lawsuit against Agence France-Presse (AFP) for publishing one of his images without his consent in the case known as Agence France-Presse v. Morel.

The news wire’s argument that Morel had granted them permission to distribute and duplicate his photo by inadvertently giving them authorization to upload the photographs to Twitter was a losing one. Morel was successful in their legal battle since the Terms of Service for Twitter say that users keep ownership of the content they publish on the platform, with the exception of Twitter and the companies it works with.
The Terms of Service for Instagram are also in line with this.

Is Giving Credit Sufficient?

A strategy that is frequently used on social media is for businesses to use photographs uploaded by consumers while also giving credit to the original user. This has happened to me more times than I can count, and although I’m not entirely sure which people expressly granted permission and which did not, I’ve seen it more often than I can count.

It is my guess that a significant number did not.

Having said that, a good number of individuals appear pleased, if not delighted, by the fact that a company has exploited their photo in this way. When credit is provided, the “artist” is still given credit for their work, even if they might not have been expecting to be rewarded for it in the first place.

There is still room for error in this regard since some people are not satisfied with only being given credit.

As a result of occurrences such as these, it is undeniably preferable to choose the course that is safer and lawful, which is to continually get authorization before doing anything.

How to Approach Someone About Regramming Their Content

Now that we are aware that we should always get permission before regramming or reposting a photo from someone else’s Instagram account, the question is: how do we go about doing so?

There are a few choices available to you:

Include opt-in rules as part of the terms and conditions for individual marketing. It is a great way to protect yourself across the board and, in turn, obtain a variety of user-generated photos if you state clearly in the rules of the contest that users who provide a photo for a sweepstakes or contest are automatically consenting to their photo being shared or used by the brand. This can be stated in a clear and obvious manner in the rules of the contest.

Inquiring about the photograph itself is another another method that may be utilised to acquire authorization to take a certain photograph.

There are now also a range of platforms and services developed specifically for companies to utilise in order to inquire of users regarding the usage of their material whether they have permission to do so. TINT, a company that also develops a range of social display solutions, is one example of a company that has built a Content Rights Solution.
Discovering material that is relevant to your business, requesting the appropriate permissions from the image’s creator via social media, and keeping track of the photographs to which you have rights are all possible outcomes of utilising this service.

Before utilising a photo that belongs to another person, you should always make sure you get their permission first. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. With a number of different ways to ask for someone’s agreement (and surely more on the way in the future), we can only hope that the grey areas will start to become more clear cut.