Comic: The Instagram Hoopla Translated Into a Real-World Allegory

I'm gonna call the cops and get Chad arrested for theft, then move all my stuff to the house across the street. Hopefully the owners there are more responsible.

After the Instagram Terms of Service controversy erupted this past week, Randall Munroe of XKCD published the comic above that offers his take on what’s going on (pardon the language). Here’s the explain xkcd explanation:

In December 2012, Instagram changed their terms of service (ToS), allowing the network to sell user-uploaded images, without profit to the content generators. This infuriated many users, who closed their accounts or stopped uploading images. Craigslist is a website for the US and Canada where individuals can contact others interested in buying or selling goods.

The title text notes two flaws in the logic of disgruntled Instagram users. You cannot accuse Instagram of stealing because it was you who gave them the images in the first place. And it is irresponsible to assume that this will not happen if you give your photos to another social networking company.

The title text, which appears if you hover your mouse over the comic, reads: “I’m gonna call the cops and get Chad arrested for theft, then move all my stuff to the house across the street. Hopefully the owners there are more responsible.”

  • Halfrack

    The comic is missing how Chad sold his house for big money because the buyer liked all the stuff Chad stored there.

  • David A. Fair

    I have repeated this more and more frequently in the last few years… If you aren’t paying for their service, you aren’t their customer. In Fact, you are probably what someone else *is* paying for.

    If Instagram made you mad, go to a service you pay for, like Flickr


    didn’t instagram offer their services? if chad said hey you can put your stuff on my shelf. shouldn’t chad have said in the first place that he’s going to sell your stuff if you do?

  • miki

    I have to agree with you. I cannot understand, why they try to justify the idea of stealing the photos, with the point that their service is free.
    They offered a service, that was clearly for sharing and there was no condition that you have to give them your photos, so changing this in midterm is a bit like stealing.

  • Knsc

    Pretty useless allegory

  • Michael Lieberman

    It’s a service. They can change the terms at any time because you are not paying for that service. You can then decide you don’t want to use the service anymore and delete your photos from there.

  • miki

    any service can change their terms. The point of being free doesn’t change anything. If they decided to offer their service for free, that is their decision. And as a user when you decide to use instagram you expect that they will probably continue to offer their service. But instagram wants to change the terms, this ends the former service and starts with a new one, one that can take your photos for free. Yes they can change the terms, doing so they are just douches!

  • G Money

    Istagram’s growth was exponential. Clearly the service made more money by having more users. It’s absurd to now steal from the customers that made them rich. People should leave and we’ll see how Istagram as a business model stands up. Personally I can’t stand Instagram photos, but lots of people love them and other services are courting Instagram’s users. So to say Instagram did the users a favor is ridiculous.

  • Bua

    download your photos and cancel ya accounts ya filthy pirates.

  • Bob

    I’ve heard it expressed as, “If you’re getting something for free on the Internet then you’re not the customer — you’re the product.”

    Still, I can see both sides. On one hand, the users aren’t directly paying Instagram, so what right do they have to complain? And yet… Their reaction has caused Instagram to back off on the change (or at least “clarify” their intentions). So clearly, Instagram *is* deriving a financial benefit from their users. (I mean, how could it be otherwise?)

  • cheap shots for real

    ditto! :D

  • cheap shots for real

    what we’ve learned from the economic crisis of the last years is that all sorts of swindling and hustling is perfectly alright in the name of “service” while only thinking only about your OWN benefits. that’s if you do it in a large scale enough. don’t bother to steal a gallon of gas or a sandwich, because that will put you on a record and ruin the rest of your life.

    so, if you’re gonna make it big in your life, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the others. and when you do, be ruthless!

  • SGee

    Chad’s garage was designed and built for the soul purpose of keeping my stuff. In fact, he said, “Come on over and keep it here. EVERYONE’S doing it! And, while you’re here, look at all the cool stuff the others brought.”

    If Chad did this so that he could use my stuff any time he wants, it’s up to me to decide if I’m okay with that. If he wants to sell my stuff… not cool. I’m glad that it seems that Chad has decided to be a better friend.

  • Richard


  • Tiago Santos

    the comic is missing: “Chad offered me the storage for free and now he wants to sell my stuff!”

  • Ralph Hightower


  • PrettyboyFloyd

    This analogy is just flat out wrong. Instagram was a gallery or an art exhibition. Some of the art is crap. Some is good. But it’s still the artist’s work.

    Imagine if Instagram had offered an incentive to photo posters of anything from 10-30% off the money made from selling a photo.

    They’s have more users as opposed to less users today. Systrom oops!