In one fell swoop, Facebook may have changed its mind about how the online news media will operate from here on out. Undermining a now age-old assumption, Facebook told Ars Technica on Thursday that embedding from Instagram may not shield news organizations from freely cross-posting on their sites. A spokesperson said:
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.
The dry statement could mean upheaval for online publishing, implying that a news organization (or anyone running a for-profit site) would have to obtain a license for an Instagram post directly from the poster before they can embed it. Some will worry that it bodes a future in which publications retroactively strike every Instagram embed from its archives in order to avoid lawsuits.
On one hand, it’s good news for professional photographers and artists who would otherwise be paid for the use of their work embedded on a personal website. Photographers like the ones who separately sued Mashable and Newsweek for embedding their Instagram posts, both after they explicitly declined to license the images to the respective publications. On the other hand, this might be the last gasp for Instagram commentary, the bread of the news, the spice of the tea blogs.