Instagram Users Can Now Prevent Others from Embedding Their Photos

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After a concerted effort by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA), Instagram has added a new option that will enable users to prevent others from embedding content they post to Instagram.

The ASMP has been in contact with Facebook and Instagram executives to address this issue since April and the NPPA for even longer.

“We have been in contact with Instagram for well over a year in pursuit of a fix for this problem. We are grateful that they were receptive to our requests to solve this,” Alicia Calzada, NPPA Deputy General Counsel, says.

ASMP General Counsel Thomas Maddrey had sent a letter (signed by six other organizations) to Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in which they were informed of what the ASMP called “the rampant problem” of third-parties using the embedding feature to bypass copyright protections.

The ASMP specifically pointed to a pair of court cases to back its argument: Sinclair v. Ziff-Davis and McGucken v. Newsweek. The first case involved a claim that Mashable infringed the exclusive right of reproduction and display when an image was featured on a Mashable story via the embedding feature. The court ruled that it was not infringement.

Another significant case alleged that Instagram’s embedding tool allowed publishers to display copyrighted images without obtaining permission from artists or paying a licensing fee. The class-action lawsuit could include “many thousands” of photographers who claim Instagram “induced online publishers” to embed links to Instagram in order to drive traffic — and by association advertising revenue — to the site.

Instagram’s terms of use say the site has the right to license third parts to embed Instagram users’ posts, but in order to defend itself, Instagram admitted that it did not actually have a sublicensing agreement with any publisher. This led to the ruling that Instagram did not have a sublicensing agreement with the offending party, Newsweek, and prompted a revision of the Mashable case.

Another recent case saw renowned nature photographer and Sony Artisan Paul Nicklen win a copyright lawsuit against the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which embedded a video from Nicklen’s Instagram on its website and featured a screenshot from it without seeking permission.

Today, the ASMP and NPPA both say Instagram has acceded to what the organizations asked of them: now users are able to choose whether to allow embedding of their works, just like other platforms (like YouTube) allow. Any user can now disable embedding.

Below are two screenshots provided by the NPPA that show a before and after the new option is exercised as what will appear as the options available to third parties:

Instagram options before embed toggle is turned off
Before the embed option is disabled.
Instagram options after embed toggle is turned off
After the embed option is disabled.

“We commend Instagram on their inclusion of this feature, and are proud of ASMP’s advocacy work for more than nine months on achieving this result from one of the largest social media platforms in the world,” the ASMP says.

“We believe this extremely important given all the lawsuits regarding embedding,” NPPA’s General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher says. “We hope photographers will take advantage of this feature. We also expect that publications will cease trying to circumvent copyright protections by claiming they have a right to embed images and properly license images from the photographers who often risk their health and safety to make them.”

The feature is now listed on Instagram’s “Help” page and is rolling out to users in the United States today and will get global support in 2022. Below are instructions on how to disable embedding on an Instagram account provided courtesy of the ASMP.

How to Disable Embedding in your Instagram Account

On Android or iPhone:

  1. Tap your profile picture (or the person silhouette) in the bottom right to go to your profile.
  2. Tap the three lines in the top right, then click “Settings”
  3. Top “Account” then tap “Embeds”
  4. Toggle the button next to “Allow people to embed your posts or profile on other websites”

On Instagram Through a Browser:

  1. Click your profile picture in the top right corner, then click “Settings”
  2. Click “Privacy and Security”
  3. Below “Embeds” click to check the box next to “Allow people to embed your posts or profile on other websites”