Instagram has become the most convenient way to capture our precious and random life moments with minimal effort. It has become second nature to take pictures at events and to Instagram them without a second thought. However, there are many issues that can arise from having an open Instagram account.
Richard Prince is an artist although some argue he’s an exploiter; Prince has taken pictures from Instagram accounts and sold them for $90 000. How can he do this? Isn’t this copyright infringement? You will be surprised to learn it’s not copyright infringement because he makes minor changes to the pictures therefore creating a new product. He has been selling his art in a New York art gallery known as Gagosian Gallery .
The photos were taken from open Instagram accounts and the owners of these pictures were not informed. A woman from Toronto, Anna Collins learnt that her picture had been posted in the gallery years after it was taken. Anna is currently seeking a portion of the $90 000 she believes she is entitled to. Collin argues that women shouldn’t have to worry about having their pictures posted in galleries when posting a picture on Instagram.
Instagram states they own the pictures posted. They went on to suggest that if someone feels they have a legitimate copyright concern they can report it to Instagram and they will take action. Furthermore, they suggested that owners can enforce their legal rights off the Instagram platform.
Prince was sued in 2008 for copyright exploitation of another artist; although the first decision was in against Prince, his appeal was successful. His modification of the art constitutes a new piece of work. In Canada there are no explicit laws dictating the use of Instagram, however there are general copyright laws that outline the repercussions for the illegal use of work. There is a $5000 fine for illegally downloading copyright work off the internet for personal use and $20 000 for using copyright work for commercial gains. However it is questionable as to how this scenario would play out in court. Thus far, there have not been cases brought forward to Canadian courts regarding copyright issues on Instagram accounts.
Instagram much like other social media sites runs into the complicated realm of internet use without legal regulation. Individuals with open accounts are more vulnerable to having their pictures used as account users are unaware of who has access to their pictures.
What can you do?
I would suggest keeping your Instagram accounts private if you don’t want someone using your pictures. You may assume that your pictures are nothing special and would not be worth anything. However, the pictures used by Prince were pictures depicting everyday scenarios – not anything spectacular or out of the ordinary.
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Points of Discussion:
1. Should Instragram pictures be subject to copyright laws?
2. Do you believe Instagram pictures should be open for followers to re-post?