Modern computers and computer networks enable human judgment to be automated, to be exercised on a vast scale and at a breathtaking pace. But it’s still human judgment. Algorithms are constructed by people, and they reflect the interests, biases, and flaws of their makers. As Google’s founders themselves pointed out many years ago, an information aggregator operated for commercial gain will inevitably be compromised and should always be treated with suspicion. That is certainly true of a search engine that mediates our intellectual explorations; it is even more true of a social network that mediates our personal associations and conversations.

Here is an excerpt from Instagram’s new, post Facebook-acquisition terms of service:

Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the Instagram Services. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.

It’s important to note that nothing’s changed in this particular section since the pre-Facebook version. I guess what has changed is that we’re paying more attention now. So, here’s my non-lawyer interpretation of this section:

We don’t own your stuff, but we can do whatever we want with it.

Which kind of sounds like it can be shortened to:

We own your stuff.

Any lawyers out there who can clarify what’s going on here?


Paul Jacobson responds in a good post:

Moving away from the legal geekery, the new Instagram license is not a land grab. It is a pretty reasonable license given the nature of the service and doesn’t equate to “We own your stuff”. Rather it’s more like “We can do things with your stuff to make Instagram work”.