You’ll Need to Get Permission to Embed an Instagram Post on Your Website or Get Sued

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In recent months they have been court cases surrounding Instagram, embedded posts and copyright licenses.

In mid-April this year, Mashable won a copyright infringement court case in where they were being sued by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair. The publication had embedded one of her photographs she had posted on Instagram after she had declined a $50 offer from them.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the New York judge rejected the proposition that Mashable had to get a license directly from Sinclair or that it’s not within the court’s purview to analyze the meaning of Instagram’s agreements and policies.


Sinclair argued that it was unfair that the giant Facebook-owned platform forced a professional photographer like her to choose between remaining private in one of the most popular public photo-sharing platforms in the world,’ and granting Instagram a right to sub-license her photographs to users like Mashable.

The judge wrote, “Unquestionably, Instagram’s dominance of photograph- and video-sharing social media, coupled with the expansive transfer of rights that Instagram demands from its users, means that Plaintiff’s dilemma is a real one. But by posting the Photograph to her public Instagram account, Plaintiff made her choice. This Court cannot release her from the agreement she made.”

“We believe no photographer knowingly contracted away their ownership rights in their photos when they choose to use Instagram.We remind everyone that this is only one single federal district court opinion and is not the binding law of the United States or even the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Our client is considering an appeal,” said Sinclair’s attorney,  James Bartolomei.

The copyright issues got complicated this week with another lawsuit involving Newsweek and Photographer Elliot McGucken. Newsweek thought that the same argument made for Mashable would work for them too. The publication also thought that since it used Instagram API embed, that the copyright would be covered by Instagram’s license.

ArsTechnica reports that on Monday,  Judge Katherine Failla refused to dismiss McGucken’s lawsuit at a preliminary stage. She said that there wasn’t enough evidence in the record to decide whether Instagram’s terms of service provided a copyright license for embedded photos.

Instagram threw them under the bus plus other people who like to embed posts from the platform on their websites by saying that they do not provide users of its embedding API a copyright license to display embedded images on other websites.

“While our terms allow us to grant a sub-license, we do not grant one for our embeds API. Our platform policies require third parties to have the necessary rights from applicable rights holders. This includes ensuring they have a license to share this content if a license is required by law,” said a Facebook spokesperson in an email to ArsTechnica.


The server test is a test in which liability is held by whoever runs the server that actually delivers infringing content to the user—in this case, Instagram.

After that Instagram announcement, it will be imperative to ask for permission from creators of the Instagram posts you want to embed especially for publications.

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