In an surprising announcement, Instagram stated that the platform does not provide users the copyright license to embed images to 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.
This means, that you will have to ask for permission if you want to embed someone else’s Instagram photo. This if of course benefitial for those who produce the content for Instagram and post it there. It gives users some flexibility, because now the only way to prevent others from embedding your pictures is to make the Instagram account private. However, this also prevents others from seeing the content in the first place, which is a liability for those who need others to see their content, like for example professional photographers.
It’s an interesting turn, since this approach echos concepts from the past. Xanadu, Ted Nelson’s hypertext project, included transclusion, which can be compared with today’s embedding of content on websites from different sources. But transclusion is a much bigger concept than just embedding web content, because publishers have much more control over the transclusion process. For example, they can prevent others from transcluding content in the first place, ask for agreements and there are also the means for micropayments that are automatically paid when the transcluded content is accessed.
It would be quite ironic, when of all things a centralized platform like Instagram starts to implement concepts from Xanadu that ultimately can help content creators to earn money with their work on the web. But of course, these platform won’t do that for free and will most likely get their cut. But this might not be a bad thing, because the technical risk also likes with those platforms.