The fact is, I don't like to talk about the politics of Instagram on Instagram. I continue to maintain that most folks on Instagram are generally very supportive of building a positive and authentic community, with very few exceptions. Unfortunately I've been seeing a disturbing uptick in some dubious practices involving image rights and reposting recently, and I was motivated to speak up. Without question, the most favorable way of using Instagram is to post your own content and tell your own story. In fact, Instagram recommends this very practice:

We want Instagram to continue to be an authentic and safe place for inspiration and expression. Help us foster this community. Post only your own photos and videos and always follow the law.

I've sadly been seeing a growing number of accounts posting content (both my own and others) that is not their own and most deplorably not providing clear and respectful credit to the original content creator. Call it what you want, but I call this practice theft. When we all signed up for Instagram, we agreed to Instagram's Community Guidelines which are very clear about how to handle content that is not your own. Here is the very first point from their Community Guidelines:

Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share. As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post.

I created this flow chart to highlight 3 major points from this paragraph. In short, if you don't own an image or a video ...

  • ... don't post it if you don't know who the original content creator is.
  • ... don't post it if you haven't asked permission directly from the original content creator.
  • ... don't post it if you don't plan on crediting the original content creator.

Simply put, skipping any of these steps violates Instagram's Community Guidelines. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the use of "Regram" apps or the practice of simply providing image credit without asking permission DOES NOT grant someone rights to post an image that belongs to someone else. Lots could be said about why these practices are important, but for the sake of brevity, let's just say that it's the respectful thing to do.

If you have, or are thinking about starting up, an Instagram account whose main source of content comes from other people, please make sure to follow these steps to continue to be a supportive member of the Instagram community.