Instagram not liable for changes to its terms of service

business-dreyfus-81-150x150On February 28, 2014, the Federal Court of California ruled in favour of Instagram in a case between the social network and one of its users (Rodriguez v Instagram LLC, CGC 13-532875) who alleged breach of contract by the web-based photograph sharing platform as well as violation of California’s contract law.


After it was bought by Facebook, Instagram modified its terms of service. In compliance with the contractual notice period, Instagram announced the changes in December 2012 and the new terms of service came into effect on January 19, 2013. Three material changes were made to harmonize the terms of service of Instagram and Facebook:


  • Users are owners of the content posted and no longer simply right holders in the content.
  • Instagram asserted the right to use posted content under a transferable and sub-licensable license.
  • The terms of service now include a liability waiver.

To facilitate the adoption of these new terms, Instagram provided that continued use of the service after January 19, 2013 would mean implicit consent to its new terms. A user, who believed that these terms had been imposed upon her without her consent, brought the case before the courts.


The judge of the federal court of California ruled in favour of Instagram on all claims.


Firstly, the plaintiff had a full opportunity to read the new terms, which she did. She could have declined the new terms by no longer using Instagram services. Yet, she did continue to use the website.


The plaintiff also argued that filing a lawsuit demonstrated that she rejected the new terms. The courts did not follow this line of reasoning and held that there was “no basis to conclude that the filing of a complaint is sufficient to reject the new terms – most especially after Plaintiff continues to use and presumably benefit from the Instagram site”.

Thus the social network does not incur contractual liability based on the plaintiff’s alleged non-acceptance of the terms. The decision of the Federal Court of California was logical, since social networks as well as users need legal certainty.


Dreyfus law firm is specialised in dispute resolution on social networks. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.