• The account centers around taking screenshots of people’s photos and pairing them with another person as a "couple".
  • I don’t know about the other pictures but mine did not have consent.
  • This is on Instagram.
  • I only found out when a friend texted me.
  • I asked twice that it be taken down and both times I was refused.
  • 1
    What is the jurisdiction? e.g. country/state/territory/etc/
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


I depends on who took the picture: that is the person who controls what can be done with it. For example, if you took the picture, you own the copyright in the picture. If some other person took the picture and you are just in the picture, that person owns the copyright, and you need their permission to post it on Instagram. Taking a screenshot is copying, and all copying requires the permission of the copyright owner.

Things are very cut-and-dried when you put things up on a personal web page, but less clear when you use some social media platform, because then you have to navigate their terms of service to see what you have legally done by posting some content. There is generally (i.e. universally, with any serious SM platform) some license that you grant to the platform, and they also grant users some permissions. You simply have to work your way through all of the documentation that seems to be about policies etc. to see what you can and can't do.

Instagram has this terms of use document. On the matter of copyright, your starting point is "Permissions You Give to Us". Their summary statement is that "We do not claim ownership of your content, but you grant us a license to use it". More specifically

you hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings). You can end this license anytime by deleting your content or account. However, content will continue to appear if you shared it with others and they have not deleted it.

You have not, by licensing the content to Instagram, granted any third party a license to copy. Right below this, they start to address third parties (by putting "you" in the position of the third party), and they state that they can take action against you (anyone) who violates the rules or "if you repeatedly infringe other people's intellectual property rights". They do not at any point say "It's okay to copy stuff from another person's account without their permission", though they do not directly say that this is forbidden (see their section on copyright) – they come pretty close by saying "It's possible to infringe someone else's copyright, even if you don't intend to do so. In most cases, you shouldn’t use someone else’s copyrighted work if you don’t have permission". They are not trying to clearly define what constitutes "fair use", because there isn't a clear answer to whether a given use is "fair use", except in a very small number of cases.

On the face of it, this is both copyright infringement and, if the other screenshots are also without permission, a violation of the terms of service. The legal question is answered by filing a lawsuit. Theoretically there is an Instagram-internal method for complaining about copyright infringement – it is probably only visible to logged in users.

  • isn't also photographs of people subject to things like model release? not sure, but isn't it another different area of law which could apply?
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 8:17
  • @Gnudiff Sometimes “yes”, sometimes “only if the photos are used to promote something other than the photos”, sometimes “no”. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/… Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 14:55

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