Instagram is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the photo-sharing service of making a “grab for user property rights” by changing its user agreement.
The lawsuit, filed late last year by California resident Lucy Rodriguez, does not present “a single cognizable claim,” Instagram argues in recent court papers. The Facebook-owned company adds that Rodriguez “could have avoided the purported injuries of which she now complains by simply terminating her account and declining the new terms before they went into effect.”
The lawsuit, which is pending in the Northern District of California, stems from Instagram's highly publicized decision late last year to change its terms of service. When Instagram first announced the new terms, it appeared as if the company was claiming the right to license users' photos for ads. That prospect sparked complaints and threatened defections by users, including high-profile celebrity users.
Instagram then backtracked on most of the proposed changes, but the company still made some minor revisions to its terms of service. Among others, users must now agree that most types of disputes will be resolved in arbitration, and that they won't bring class-action complaints. The new terms, which went into effect in January, also cap certain kinds of damages at $100.
Those shifts prompted a potential class-action lawsuit by Rodriguez (also called Lucy Funes in some court papers). She alleges that Instagram broke its contract with users by imposing new terms -- which apply to material uploaded when the old terms were still in effect.
But Instagram says the case should be dismissed, arguing that Rodriguez could have stopped using the service if she didn't like the new terms. “Rather than simply terminating her account ... plaintiff sued Instagram and now seeks special treatment: she wants to continue to use Instagram and to use this lawsuit to rewrite the terms that govern her and other individuals’ use of the service,” the company argues.
Instagram also argues that Rodriguez lacks “standing” to proceed in court because she hasn't suffered any tangible injury.
Some legal experts predicted last year that the case would be dismissed. Seattle-based cyberlawyer Venkat Balasubramani said in a blog post that courts have ruled in other cases that people can't sue companies solely for revising their terms of service.