#LegalFails: Bad T&Cs Could Have Killed Instagram

Linkilaw Internet Security

 

Do you ever read the online Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) when ordering your new pair of shoes or joining Instagram for the first time? Most of us don’t.

By ticking the box, we bound ourselves by a number of rules and obligations that can put the company’s interest above ours.

T&Cs are essential for any business. They provide protection and are the core elements of a contract. Here are five reasons why T&Cs are so important:

  1. To minimise legal disputes and chances of being taken to court.
  2. To fully protect the position (business elements such as payment and price but also less obvious ones as the protection of intellectual property)
  3. To enforce the agreement
  4. To provide a good customer service
  5. To help comply with the law

 

For social media, a badly worded T&Cs means the end. Users are able to file lawsuits for elements that were initially excluded in the agreement. This lack of restriction on liability can cause financial costs that could in worst cases result in bankruptcy. This horror scenario is the one that companies want to avoid at any price. By taking extra care in the drafting process, businesses reduce their vulnerability.

 

Instagram allows people to share pictures and also to promote their art, businesses or lifestyle. In this setting, it is crucial for Instagram to exclude liability for the content shared on their social media.

 

To understand the importance of T&Cs for Instagram, here is the  example of Henry, a professional photographer promoting his art. Henry’s account is public, so another user, Patrick, stole his pictures and shared them as his own. Henry decides to sue Instagram for allowing Patrick to share and appropriate content that is not his. This could result in a number of financial costs for the company as it does not protect its users. This situation can be avoided easily by users agreeing to terms and conditions before joining.

In Instagram’s T&Cs, content is regulated by the terms of use. If a picture violates the standard set, the user bear the legal responsibility. Their terms ban users from filling a class action lawsuit. It also defines how the content can be used by Instagram. The copyrights belong to the user but are licenced to Instagram unless the account is private, which allows since the acquisition by Facebook, the use of content for advertising.

 

However, in the case of Instagram, even with a well drafted T&C they are exposed to some vulnerability. They had to settle for $10 million with Ms Johnson; a teenager who sued for $500 million for defamation because her picture was taunted on the media. Although T&Cs do not protect fully business against legal disputes, it helps in minimizing them.

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