What I learnt from the Instagram TOS drama

Today a wide range of media jumped on the fact that the new terms seemed allow Instagram to sell your photos to advertisers and keep all the profits. Certain parts of the terms backed up this possibility and caused mass outrage. The key lesson I picked up is that when announcing legal changes to a service the company needs to go through the main changes and address their intent.

With all the legal documents I’ve created or negotiated the language rarely matches intent. Legal language is harsh because it’s written to butt-cover if things go bad. Because they are skewed to protect the company that wrote them they can seem really unfair to the other party. Instagram did explain the intent behind their changes. This explanation came too late, the news cycles were already running and opinions already set.

Here is the lesson: announce your intent along with the legal changes. Don’t let the media, who profit from outrage, fill the vacuum with worst-case analysis.