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Clear Instagram Copyright Rules (for Content Creators and Photographers)

Does Instagram copyright photos? Breaking down Instagram’s Terms of Use for you.

Knowing whether Instagram copyrights your photos and having complete control over your photos online is important especially if you are trying to build a brand.

One of the social media sites where this issue constantly appears is Instagram because the whole app is built on photos. But you already knew that.. DUH!

Here’s a question you might not know the answer to- Does Instagram copyright photos when you post them?

Let’s find out!

Disclaimer: I’m NOT a lawyer and nothing in this post should be taken as legal advice. I just read things, interpreted them and put my thoughts out to the public as a resource and nothing more.

Does Instagram copyright photos?

Simply put, Instagram DOES NOT copyright your photos when you post them. You retain 100% ownership of them!

According to their Terms of Use, “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service.”

This means that you do not need to wonder how to copyright photos on Instagram.

In the United States, you automatically get copyright of a photo when you press the shutter (unless it’s an image of existing artistic work and you haven’t been commissioned to take the photo by an employer). When you upload your photo onto Instagram, you still have this copyright of your photo.

Instagrammer taking photo of food knowing that with Instagram copyright rules, they retain the copyright to their photo when they take the picture.

Is there anything Instagram can do with my photos?

Yes. Even though Instagram does not gain copyright ownership of your images, they can use your photo however they want even though you still own it.

By posting on Instagram, you give them “a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license” to use your photo or video for anything without your express permission because you already gave it to them when posting to Instagram.

What does this mean for other Instagram users and my photos?

The license you give to Instagram, the company, does not extend to any other Instagrammer. They cannot alter your photos or claim it as your own, even when reposting to Instagram.

They can only repost your photo with express permission, not when you use general hashtags like #travel or #fun.

Sometimes, companies and brands use specific hashtags for implied consent like “Tag #thisspecifichashtag to be featured on our account.”

By using that hashtag, you agree to be featured on that account, which means they’ll be posting your photo at any point so there’s probably not going to have any legal battles following it.

Legally though, they should be getting your expression permission before posting so it could be considered Instagram copyright infringement even if you use their hashtag and you said outright say, “Yes. Repost it.”

Does that mean I can’t repost other peoples’ photos?

Yes, reposting to Instagram is allowed but you should do it legally.

If you want to have a repost account, ALWAYS get the photographer’s express permission BEFORE reposting their photo.

f for some reason you can’t, you should use a reposting app so that their username gets watermarked onto their image.

Read this post to learn more about Instagram reposting rules, etiquette and what app to use.

Instagrammer looking at their own photos of coffee on their Instagram accounting knowing that with Instagram copyright rules, they retain the copyright to their photo when they take the picture.

What do I do if an Instagrammer has used my photo?

Did that Instagram influencer credit you?

It’s up to you to decide if you are ok with this.

When an Instagrammer uses your photo and clearly credits you, then this could be good because you could get more followers.

Nonetheless, if it conflicts with your brand for your image to be on an account you don’t like, then you can ask them to take it down.

Did that Instagrammer post your photo as theirs or not credit you clearly?

When someone uses a photo of mine without crediting me clearly like by tagging the photo or putting me in the first comment, not the caption AND the photo, I ask them to add tags clearly.

If they don’t update the photo with my credit clearly, then I’ll ask them to take it down.

If an account doesn’t credit you or take down your image, then read about Copyright Infringement on Instagram’s site and fill out their form to take the photo down.

What about that guy who blew up photos of Instagram pictures, replaced the caption, and made $90,000 on each photo?

If you’re talking about Richard Prince, this is where it gets tricky.

Instagram says if any copyright infringement happens within the app, they can help you out.

If it’s outside of Instagram like at a Richard Prince art gallery, then you need to take this into your own hands.

What about reposting Instagram photos on a blog post?

Reposting someone’s Instagram photos on your own blog is ok when you EMBED it.

Embedding is ok because you are not downloading and uploading it, and thus, there is no chance that it will mistakenly be noted as your photo.

Also, when you embed a photo, it is clear whose photos it is, and a reader can even click through the photo to follow that person on Instagram!

Here’s how to embed a photo on Instagram to your blog post:

  1. To embed a photo, go to Instagram on your desktop.
  2. Click on the three dots on the bottom right.
  3. Hit ‘Embed’.
  4. Copy and paste that script into your webpage.

Here are screenshots of how to do it:

sharing an instagram post to website through the embed function example
Go to a photo on Instagram via desktop. Click on the three dots in the top right corner.
here's how to embed a photo from instagram to your website
Click on Embed.
here's how to embed a photo from instagram to your website
Select whether you want the caption or not, and copy the code into a custom HTML box on WordPress.

Example of it embedded into my blog:

Follow @sarchetrit on Instagram.

What about using copyrighted music on Instagram?

With the introduction of Reels, copyright music on Instagram is something we need to pay more close attention to.

Overall, when you can, use the music in the Instagram audio library. Not only will you make sure that you don’t infringe on someone’s copyright and get in trouble, Instagram said themselves they are more likely to boost Reels if it has sound from their own audio library.

You can see Instagram’s music library within the app or check out their Sound Collection for Instagram and Facebook.

If you want to use music that’s not within Instagram’s library, then you can use the sound at your own risk. Here are some tips:

  • Always credit the sound’s owner in your caption.
  • If Instagram’s automated system takes down your content because of the sound, you can appeal the removal.
  • Use royalty free music from Hook Sounds or Audio Jungle.

Comment below if this post helped you understand Instagram copyright rules!

If you’re curious about my Instagram, you can check it out here.

Happy instagramming!
~ Sarah

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