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Whose photos are those? Instagram sued for breach of contract

Software and application services are increasingly the subject of litigation, as companies and consumers navigate the sometimes choppy waters of terms-of-service agreements. For example, a woman from California has filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that Instagram, the photo-sharing service now owned by Facebook, is in breach of contract regarding terms of service.

Instagram lets users easily share their photos online, as well as manipulate the photos by adding filters and other effects. Included in the new terms of service, which will go into effect in the middle of January, is a mandatory arbitration clause. According to that clause, users who agree to Instagram's terms of service will give up the right to sue the company in a class action. That kind of clause is not included in the current terms of service.

Additionally, if users don't agree with the changes, they can close their Instagram accounts. But here the main point of contention arises: the new terms of service say that Instagram will keep the rights to any photos already shared by users who choose to close their accounts. That means Instagram would be able make commercial use of content provided by those users.

Those who are suing Instagram have taken issue with the idea of their personal photos showing up in ads. The contract dispute rekindles the ongoing debate about what is private and what is public in matters of business. A Facebook spokesperson has claimed the lawsuit is without merit, while the plaintiffs say that Instagram's argument relies on the assumption that "possession is nine-tenths of the law."

Los Angeles residents with breach-of-contract concerns may want to keep an eye on this case as it moves forward. It could have far-reaching effects on terms-of-service agreements in the software and application industries.

Source: EnStarz, "Instagram Sued Over Terms Of Service Changes, Breach Of Contract & Privacy Claims," Shiryn Ghermezian, Dec. 27, 2012

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