Sinclair vs. Mashable; Embedding Feature On Instagram & Impact On Copyright Laws



The social media application Instagram’s profile embedding feature was announced by head Adam Mosseri through a video on Twitter. He further explained that it is now possible to embed Instagram videos and photos into a website, and the new feature is an extension to let you embed a miniature version of your Instagram profile. Mosseri said it can help if you want to “showcase your Instagram content on a website somewhere or link to someone else’s,”

This embedding feature allows you to facilitate seamless integration between your Instagram content and your website and enhance user engagement by encouraging website visitors to interact with your Instagram content. It also allows you showcase user-generated content, strengthening your brand’s community.

Let us now analyze the impact of this embedding feature on copyright laws by taking a deeper look into the Stephanie Sinclair vs. Mashable case.

Stephanie Sinclair vs. Mashable Case

A Pulitzer Prize winning Photo Journalist Stephanie Sinclair known for her commendable work on Gender and Human rights issues owned an exclusive United States Copyright on an image titled “Child, Bride, Mother/Child Marriage in Guatemala” which she also posted on her Instagram to be viewed by her followers.

Digital media platform Mashable reached out to Stephanie and sought her permission to use the said photograph for an article on their own website and offered her $50 for the same which she refused. However, Mashable went ahead and posted this picture of hers on its website. Stephanie demanded Mashable to take down the photograph and pay her compensation. Mashable however stated that there is no copyright infringement in the instant case as the picture was taken through the process of embedding Instagram’s website.

To her first argument that her right to grant a license directly to Mashable and Instagram’s license to grant a sublicense operate independently, the Court stated that since Stephanie’s account was in a Public mode, Mashable was well within its rights to seek sub-license from Instagram. To her second argument on the complexity of Instagram’s terms and policies, the Court stated that it does not take judicial notice of the meaning of such terms and policies.

Further, Judge Kimba Wood granted Sinclair’s motion to re-open the case. In an opinion & order published recently, Judge Wood writes that “pleadings contain insufficient evidence to find that Instagram granted Mashable a sub-license to embed Plaintiff’s Photograph on its website.”

However, citing the recent case of McGucken vs Newsweek that prompted Instagram’s statements, Judge Wood “revised the opinion” because “the court did not give full force to the requirement that a license must convey the licensor’s ‘explicit consent’ to use a copyrighted work. In other words, Instagram didn’t give Mashable explicit consent to use the photo under that sub-license, so Mashable can’t use IG’s Platform Policy as a legal defense against Sinclair’s copyright infringement claim.

Rights Of An Artist

Economic Independence-

The author has the economic independence to commercialize his copyrighted works which can be literary, musical, theatrical, cinematographic film etc. The author also has the right to reproduce, illustrate, communicate, and modify the work in any way. In Landbroke Limited Vs William Hill Limited, it was held that the economic rights of the owner cannot be used without his permission. There could be substantially similar result by the independent work. In more clear words if we take an example of two children of a classroom who have written answers and are taught by the same teacher, referred to a common work, so their answers will also be similar to each other, if substantially similar but the work is from different source then it is acceptable, their answers might be very similar but they study from different study material. Both of their work will be considered as they haven’t infringed each other’s right.

Moral Rights-

Moral rights are the rights individual creators have in relation to copyright works or films they have created. Moral rights are separate from the economic rights of the copyright owner, such as the rights to reproduce the work or communicate it to the public. Moral rights are the embodiment of the natural rights of an artist has over what he has created. Moral rights are personal legal rights belonging to the creator of copyright works and not be transferred, assigned or sold.

In Manu Bhandari vs Kala Vikas Motion Pictures Ltd, the plaintiff, Mannu Bhandari, was a famous Hindi language novelist. The defendant produced a motion picture titled Samay Ki Dhara based on plaintiff’s novel Aap Ka Bunty. Though the movie was made under an agreement with the plaintiff, the plaintiff was not happy with the way her work was treated during the adaptation of the novel into the movie. The plaintiff feared that her image would be tarnished if the distorted version of her novel was allowed to be presented through the movie. Hence the plaintiff sought permanent injunction against the screening and exhibition of the movie. While dealing with this case, the Bench attempted to strike a balance between creative freedom of filmmakers and the moral rights of authors. The observations of the Delhi High Court throw light upon the interpretation of Section 57 and elaborated on the importance of the same. It can be said that in some ways, the case of Mannu Bhandari acts as a beacon of hope for authors of literary works by stressing upon the relevance of moral rights.


● One can preserve one’s rights as an artist by acquiring a copyright registration certification for the work that has been made. When there is a disagreement about ownership of the copyright, the certification and entries serve as first-hand evidence in court.

● It is essential for an artist to be informed of his rights under the Copyright law, and the best way for an artist to safeguard his copyright work is to get it registered in order to avoid undesired legal arguments, mental pain, harassment, and financial hardships over the ownership of his own piece of work.


Contributor: Bhumika Sharma


Interns and Paralegals.


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