EyeEm on rival Instagram: ‘This is exactly how you can’t mess with the user’

The mass facepalmage around Instagram’s new terms is over, for now at least. Instagram’s (s fb) users have either stormed off or shrugged and stayed, and the company has been forced to promise it won’t be selling anyone’s photos.

But one of Instagram’s up-and-coming rivals, EyeEm, is almost certain to go down the photo-selling route. The company won’t confirm or deny it at this point, but its metadata-centric approach and experimentation with ‘photo missions’ clearly point to a move into the marketing campaign and/or stock photo businesses. So I went to see what they think of this week’s events.

Florian Meissner, EyeEm CEOCEO Florian Meissner is delighted, of course. Since Instagram ditched Twitter integration, EyeEm — which added that feature itself just weeks before — has been reaping the benefits. Then the latest fiasco hit, and guess what? EyeEm’s daily sign-ups increased ten-fold yesterday, and it looks like the trend is continuing into today.

“I definitely think it wasn’t a PR stunt from Facebook,” Meissner told me, dismissing one of the many theories out there. “They wrote [the new terms] for a reason. In my opinion, the way they described it was legally straightforward and clear: it says Instagram keeps a license to do whatever they can do with that.”

“Kevin [Systrom] said [in the post-storm blogpost] they wanted to experiment with advertising, and this is exactly how you can’t mess with the user. You can’t take a right from the user without telling them what you’re going to do with it. That is why a lot of people are pissed.”

Pay up

Meissner won’t bite on the subject of where photo missions are headed, but, if they do become profitable, he’s insistent that the users behind the shots will benefit.

“If this happens, the brands would need to compensate the users. If they want that content they have to pay for it,” he said. “We have said that copyright and rights will always belong to our users. If we implement a business model, we would never do anything without compensating our users.”

Ah yes, that rights thing. One of the telling things about this week’s festivities is the way in which Instagram came back insisting that it was never trying to take away ownership rights from its users. Well no, it wasn’t trying that. It was however trying to expansively claim a transferable, sub-licensable license for those photos — not the same thing, but damn close in effect.

This is where Meissner insists EyeEm will do the right thing. Same goes for Flickr, of course, which already allows its users to benefit financially from licensing deals through Getty. Meissner is full of praise for Flickr and its well-timed resurgence, describing the release of its hot new iPhone app just days before the Instagram meltdown as “the perfect moment for them”.

“What I admire about Flickr is that they are also a community with very strong values. They’re very honest to their users,” he says. “If Instagram perceive themselves as a bigger part of Facebook as opposed to a photo community, then they’re free to do it – but they’re leaving our space.”