neonbrand-nZJBt4gQlKI-unsplashSocial media doesn't have the best history when it comes to copyright to this point in its history. The poor record makes a kind of sense: it's hard to govern a platform with tens of millions of users, provided that we believe they even want to regulate behavior, and tech companies in general have struggled to find the right measure of action to take, often swinging wildly between indifference and overreaction based upon the crisis of the moment. These companies want growth at all costs, and problems are often left to grow and fester until such a point that they threaten that growth. All this is to say that social media companies as a whole don't seem to have a coherent ideology on much of anything, let alone copyright and copyright protection.

Which is what makes Instagram's recent move to prevent what it saw as the potential circumvention of copyright protections somewhat surprising. According to TorrentFreak, Instagram sent a DMCA notice to Github over an API on the sire known as "Instagram-API". Instagram's claim in sending the notice is that the API could be used as a means of circumventing copyright protections in accessing the posts of Instagram users, with the operative word being "could"; there's no noted instances of copyright infringement cited.

In taking such preemptive action, Instagram is using the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA, which is aimed at tools that offer unauthorized access to content — the tools that are used to circumvent piracy protections for Blu-Rays and digital films, for example. It's Instagram's contention that the "Instagram-API" was such a tool, arguing that the API offers a level of function and access beyond that granted to authorized Instagram accounts.

The API's developer, mgp25, made no such claim as to trying to circumvent any such restrictions, stating that the API was developed as a means to use the platform when he was unable to do so on his phone. Nevertheless, the API and any related development has been removed from Github after the complaint, with TorrentFreak reporting that mpg25 has no intention of filing a counter-notice to push back against Instagram.

While it would seem commendable that Instagram has some concern for its user's copyright, it does give pause to see preemptive action over something that may or may not be used to access the copyrighted works of users, without any firm proof, particularly given big tech's penchant for throwing its weight around against individuals and small companies without the means to fight back. And it remains to be seen if Instagram's concern over copyright is as serious in matters of user complaints against other users, when more strictly enforcing its rules might result in the potential loss of customers. Certainly big tech has bred enough cynicism as to wonder who this move was meant to benefit: the users and their copyright, as they say, or themselves?

Join for Free Business Risk Assessment