FILE - In this Monday, April 9, 2012, file photo, Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone, in New York. Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service that
FILE - In this Monday, April 9, 2012, file photo, Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone, in New York. Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service that Facebook bought this year, is the target of a storm of outrage on Twitter and other sites after the company announced Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 a change in its user agreement that hinted that it might use shared photos in ads. (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof, File) ( Karly Domb Sadof )

Gallery: Instagram's new policy causes Twitter storm
Just about the time Tuesday #boycottinstagram began to trend on Twitter, the co-founder of the popular photo sharing application insisted his company has no intention of selling users' photos.

Kevin Systrom blamed unclear legal language for the problem and promised to fix a proposed changed in Instagram's privacy policy.

“Since making these changes, we've heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean,” Systrom wrote in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon. “We're listening and ... commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion.”

Purchased earlier this year by Facebook for $740 million, Instagram's plan to monetize its service, generated all sorts of grief for the company, much of the criticism was leveled on other social platforms including Google +, Facebook, and Twitter, where hashtags like #instabad, #instastupid, #instagreedy, #instadrama and #instakarma adorned posts about the announcement.

Of course all the concern leads to the #instaquestion, who owns your shared photos?

Dan Cotman, a copyright attorney at Cotman IP Law Firm in Pasadena, said although users technically agree to allow Instagram to use their photos, the new terms pose a serious question about copyright law.

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“My understanding is that they are obtaining the right to use your image and profit from your image without telling you or compensating you and that goes in the face of every copyright law that has been on the books for 100 years,” Cotman said.

Instagram's new rules, he added, go along with a growing trend in the digital world toward less privacy and ownership over content posted online.

“If we are going to re-do copyright laws so that the content you post online is no longer owned by the author, that is a major shift,” Cotman said. “Where is the boundary becomes the problem. ... You end up with this slippery slope and I think once you go down it's hard to climb back up.”

Karen North, expert in social media and Internet privacy at the University of Southern California, said Instagram's new terms shouldn't have been too surprising, as the service is a business that needs to make money.

“The bottom line really is this, Instagram was purchased by Facebook and we're going to see more and more of these changes because Facebook has the struggle right now of how to figure out how to be profitable at an incredibly high level,” North said.

Even though users are upset, the bottom line is that Instagram's privacy policies are geared toward making money.

Katie Abbott, social media manager for Santa Anita Park, said while she doesn't like the idea of her photos being used for an ad, any exposure for horse racing or the track is ultimately positive.

“From a horse racing standpoint if they are going to put any photo we take out there, then that's a win for us as long as they give us credit,” Abbott said. “Of course there is a monetary loss if they are using it as advertisement and we aren't seeing any of that, but I think for us I wouldn't change anything as of now, because of what we are still gaining from it far outweighs any loss.”

On the other hand, Marc Campos, photographer for Occidental College, said he was concerned that he would no longer have control over professional photos he posts to Instagram. And, he said, many of his photographs are of Occidental students who wouldn't know if their picture was used in an ad.

“I photograph just kind of fun things on campus for (my professional) account and if a student is in it and then that appears in an ad, that is really against what we are doing,” Campos said. “We don't want a student to be exploited basically for an ad.”

In the end, regardless of privacy policies, North said users should know that anything they post online is free game.

“People like to believe that their privacy settings maintain their privacy,” North said, “but the reality is that anything you do on social media you should perceive and expect to be public.”

Systrom's statement indicated the company hoped to seek some balance between users' concerns and corporate necessities.

“I always want you to feel comfortable sharing your photos on Instagram,” Systrom said, “and we will always work hard to foster and respect our community and go out of our way to support its rights.”

Finally, Systrom emphasized that users will still have control over who sees their photos, and will maintain ownership over anything they post.

“We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period,” he said.

lauren.gold@sgvn.com, 626-657-0990