Judge Ruling Sets Precedent for Instagram IP Law. Here’s What That Means for Content Creators.

The Facts

Mashable writes an article entitled “10 female photojournalists with their lense on social justice” and reaches out to photographer Stephanie Sinclair to be featured.

Mashable offers the photographer $50 to use her photos in the article. Sinclair declines.

Mashable continues to highlight Sinclair’s work anyway by embedding an Instagram post of her photography instead of the photo itself.

Stephanie Sinclair sues Mashable for copyright infringement for using her intellectual property without authorization.

Court rules in favor of Mashable, with the justification that by uploading her photo to Instagram publicly, Sinclair granted the platform a transferable right to use the content which Mashable exercised by sub-licensing it from Instagram.

The Outcome

A precedent is set. Content creators are reminded that Instagram and other social media platforms are businesses. On one hand, they provide an incredible service, but on the other hand they have Terms & Conditions that are still permissible by law whether or not we actually read the fine print before clicking ‘Agree’. Although this may seem “unfair” at first glance, this could actually be a great opportunity for content creators to shift our strategy to make the most out of this learning experience.

Our Takeaways

Instagram and other social media platforms are incredible for us as creators; they offer us an easy way to connect intimately with our fans, be discovered by new audiences and allow us to measure our effectiveness via analytic tools – all for FREE.

However, it’s important to use the platform instead of letting the platform use us. We need to see the platforms for what they are – ‘top of funnel marketing tools’. This means that they are to be used for building awareness and engagement, but ultimately we should be leveraging them to send traffic to the only place on the internet that we actually own; our WEBSITE.  Instead of putting any and all of our content on social media, our strategy should be to intentionally use select content  to drive traffic to our websites that converts attention into dollars.

Maybe now we’ll understand the importance of reading what we sign – even if it’s a little check box we’re conditioned to breeze through during app sign up. The honess will always be on as creators/entrepreneurs to know what we’re signing.


Social media is an incredible tool for content creators, but we’ve begun to get spoiled. Instagram and other platforms don’t owe us anything further than the incredible service they offer us — for FREE. Maybe now we’ll remember the meaning of the old saying: “if the service is free, it’s because you’re the product.”

Read the full story here: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/court-rules-photographer-gave-up-licensing-rights-by-posting-instagram-1290170

Original Mashable article here: https://mashable.com/2016/03/19/female-photojournalists-social-justice/

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