Judge Dismisses Class-Action Suit Vs. Instagram

By David Cohen 

A class-action suit against Instagram over changes to its terms of service introduced last December was dismissed by a judge last Friday on procedural grounds.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California William Alsup ruled that plaintiff Lucy Rodriguez could not sue the Facebook-owned photo-sharing network for several procedural reasons, including the level of “injury” she allegedly suffered and her state of residence, and the judge also denied a request by Rodriguez to file an amended complaint, CNET reported.

Finkelstein & Krinsk, the plaintiff’s law firm, told CNET it would refile the case in San Francisco Superior Court.

GigaOM cited legal experts in calling the case a long shot, saying that companies are allowed to change their terms of service as long as their users are notified.

The controversy began last December, when Instagram announced changes to its data use policy, which included the following paragraph hinting that users’ images could be used in advertising, similar to Facebook’s sponsored stories:

To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your user name, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

Later that month, Instagram attempted to defuse the controversy over the changes to its terms of service, reverting them to the original 2010 version and releasing the following blog post by Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom:

The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos. There was confusion and real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work.

Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010. You can see the updated terms here.

Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

You also had deep concerns about whether under our new terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content. I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos — you do.

However, Instagram’s change of heart did not prevent the class-action suit from being filed in December.

Instagram argued in February that the suit should be dismissed, and CNET noted that in March, Rodriguez was named as the new plaintiff in an amended filing, replacing Lucy Funes.

Readers: Is there any point to this case, since Instagram already reverted to its prior terms of service?