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Is Instagram selling your photos?

Instagram faced a backlash Tuesday as users debated whether to dump the smartphone-sharing service due to a rule change giving it a royalty-free, worldwide license to posted images.

Changes to the privacy policy and terms of service at Facebook-owned Instagram taking effect on January 16 include wording that lets people’s pictures be used by advertisers at either online venue.

“You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service,” the new terms of service state.

“You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Instagram contended that it is not claiming ownership of people’s pictures, just that it can do what it wishes with images.

Twitter and Instagram forums were ablaze with debate regarding whether to delete accounts before the new rules kick in.

“Bye-bye Instagram,” tweeted Scott Ninness. “Who in their right mind will use a service that allows your images (to) be sold with no financial remuneration to you?”

“Everybody should continue using Instagram but just take blurry photos of sandwiches,” suggested a Twitter user by the screen-name Michele Catalano.

Some people “tweeted” in defense of Instagram, arguing that it is a “mega-business” that needs to make money.

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Another Twitter user predicted that a handful of Instagram users will abandon the service and “everyone else will stick around.”

“Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them,” Instagram said in a blog post when the policy changes were disclosed on Monday.

“Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups.”

The move that would let advertisers work with people’s Instagram pictures comes as the service tries to channel people to its website to view posted images.

Instagram this month made it impossible for Internet users to view its images in messages at fired off at Twitter.

Instagram, which has some 100 million users, is seeking to route photo viewers to its own website, where it has the potential to make money from ads or other mechanisms, instead of letting Twitter get the benefits.

Previously, Instagram pictures shared in messages tweeted from smartphones could be viewed unaltered at Twitter.

Twitter responded by adding Instagram-style photo sharing features of its own.

Yahoo! joined the fray last week by making it more enticing for iPhone users to use its Flickr photo service.

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Instagram rose to stardom with the help of Twitter, but has distanced itself from the messaging service since Facebook completed its acquisition of Instagram in September.

The original price was pegged at $1 billion but the final value was less because of a decline in the social network’s share price.

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