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How Instagram Ripped Off Snapchat and Why There are no Copyright Issues


SNAPCHAT introduced picture story telling in 2013, three years down the line, they get half as much daily users as Instagram. Yesterday Instagram introduced Stories (Insta Stories), which lets you group your snaps into one narrative that disappears after 24 hours too just like snapchat. On social media, some people are crying foul, but with each passing minute, the number of Insta Story supporters are on the rise. Many users have claimed that the Instagram picture story telling feature is actually better but many questions are still being raised about copyright and moral issues.

Instagram Vs SnapChat

How InstaStories Work:

Once you’ve updated your Instagram app, you’ll notice a new feature of circular avatars at the top of your feed. Anyone with a ring around his/her avatar icon has updated their feeds recently. Tap a profile pic, and you’ll be taken to that person’s story: A series of photos and videos from the past day, augmented with stickers and text and drawings. You can’t publicly like or comment on someone’s story, but you can send them a message about it over Instagram Direct.

Instagram Vs Snapchat 2

To create your own story, there’s a new “+” icon in the upper left-hand corner of your app. Take a photo or video from there, and it automatically goes to your InstaStory stream, rather than your main feed. In 24 hours (Just like snapchat), all the photos in that story will disappear. Note that whatever privacy settings you’ve established for your day to day Instagramming will automatically apply to your ephemeral efforts.

What Instagram has to say:

Apart from the media hype; Instagram openly acknowledges the similarities. “Stories are a new format that’s just starting to see broad adoption, and we’re excited to bring them to Instagram and help evolve them,” an Instagram spokesperson says. (Snapchat declined to comment).

The legal standpoint is:

Adding stories (a personal collections of photos and videos) is no different than adding video or messaging feature to the app, experts say. From both a legal and existential viewpoint, that argument is correct. First, let’s consider the legalities of ripping off a feature with exact detail. Surely, at some point, intellectual property law must kick in. University of Pennsylvania law professor; R. Polk Wagner told Wired magazine that this is not that point for InstaStories. “The idea of featured ‘Stories’ is not new, so any patents would likely be quite specific to implementation details,” says Wagner. “And because the implementation/interfaces are slightly different, copyright doesn’t provide any protection. This is an area where IP laws don’t prevent the copying of another’s features or innovations.”

Instagram Vs Snapchat 3

So basically, in order for this to cross over into legally problematic territory, Instagram Stories would have to share not just the same functionality, but also look substantially similar, as well.

The Moral Question:

The issue generally raised is whether it’s acceptable socially, morally  (or however you want to frame it), for a social network to update features similar to another app, and to this I say; Hell Yeah!!! In fact Instagram isn’t the only app that has done this, Twitter introduced Snapchat-like stickers just last month and few weeks before that, Snapchat also added Instagram-like photo-storage. Facebook has even attempted to recreate Snapchat before, with its failed Slingshot app. In fact, Facebook ripped off Instagram with an app called Facebook Camera in 2012 just a month before it changed its mind and bought Instagram for a billion dollars.

The Truth:

Every social network is seriously chasing after Facebook’s 1 billion users marker, as since Snapchat isn’t a stranger to the copycat game, there should be no problem with InstStories. Sure, App loyalists eye-roll at what they see as selling out but what really matters is that Instagram owners have a fun new feature to play with regardless of where its origin and from a quick all-day trial, we are loving it.


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