Apparently, Instagram is backing down from its new policy of allowing advertisers to use pictures posted by its users without compensating them. The outrage from users equaled and may have surpassed the reaction to the Connecticut Shooting--as everybody threatened to shut down their accounts and remove all of their pictures. It reminds me of the disgust that users of Facebook and Twitter expressed when those social media sites started posting ads on their sites--and selling sponsored posts to clutter up our timelines.
The Instagram debacle makes me wonder, why do we think that everything on the internet should be free? I remember how musicians were pilloried when they objected to Napster basically allowing everyone in the world to download songs and entire albums for free. Up until the invention of Napster, we were more than willing to compensate the artists, producers and manufacturers of music products for their efforts--why did we all of a sudden think that expecting on-line acquisition of the same product should be free?
Newspapers are coming under the same attacks now for putting up paywalls to view their content. I see social media posts and bloggers who rant about how "information should be free"--some even posting "workaround" ways to still access the content without paying. (Yes, we poke a little fun at the ink-stained wretches as well with a couple of promos that run here on the radio station.) But for 350-years, Americans were more than willing to hand over a few cents every day to get brief recap of history in printed form. Why do you suddenly think that the reporters who actually gather the content to put on those pages (printed and virtual) don't deserve to get paid for their efforts anymore? You know that if we weren't keeping an eye on them, you wouldn't hear anything from the Oshkosh School Board for the rest of time. And those bloggers who consider themselves "News Outlets" because they re-post links to actual news sources would find themselves hurting for content if they actually had to go out and cover stuff or do their own interviews.
I often make the point that people place more value on things that they actually have to pay for. It's why private school parents keep closer tabs on their kids academic performance. It's why you see garbage laying around in parks--but not on golf courses. And it's why the Green Bay "Bike Sharing Program" ended with all of the free-to-use bikes being stolen or damaged.
I hear all the time about how "social media" has forever changed the way we communicate and live--but I'm pretty sure that if Facebook or Twitter or Skype started charging even a penny a post or a nickel a minute to chat--nearly all of us would leave it behind in an instant. Maybe we should change our national motto from "In God We Trust" to "If It Ain't Free, It Ain't For Me."