Instagram faces US class action lawsuit over updated terms of service

27 December, 2012 by Jay Alabaster, IDG News Service
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A class action lawsuit has been filed against Instagram over the company’s controversial update to its terms of service last week.

The civil lawsuit, filed Friday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses Instagram of violating the property rights of its users and breaching its existing terms of service. It was filed initially on behalf of a single user but says there are “tens of thousands of members” in the state whose rights were violated by Instagram’s update.

“Plaintiff is acting to preserve valuable and important property, statutory, and legal rights, through injunctive, declaratory and equitable relief issued by this Court before such claims are forever barred by adoption of Instagram’s New Terms,” the filing said.

The suit stems from a revision to Instagram’s terms of service first announced on Monday of last week. The new terms appeared to give Instagram the right to sell ads using a person’s name or photos published using the service, among other things.

“We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously,” wrote Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes in an email.

The proposed changes, due to take effect on Jan. 16, caused an immediate backlash against the Facebook-owned photo sharing service, with some users declaring they would close their accounts. Instagram backed off a few days later on Thursday, apologizing and saying it would go back to its original terms of service in regard to ads.

The California lawsuit was filed after the changes were reverted. It takes particular issue with Instagram’s ownership of user images, especially the case when a user quits the service and loses ownership of their photos to the company.

“In short, Instagram declares that ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law and if you don’t like it, you can’t stop us,’” it says.

The lawsuit seeks to void parts of the terms of service, including sections waiving legal damages against Instagram and those granting the company ownership over user photos. The filing, by San Diego law firm Finkelstein & Krinsk, names as plaintiffs user Lucy Funes and others affected by the changes in California.

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