Most of you’ve probably realized by now that Instagram has copied Snapchat’s main feature: Stories. Instagram incorporated its own funky style to the feature that has been Snapchat’s ticket to fame. Although the stories still disappear after 24 hours. Now this IS a blatant rip off and the entire internet has recognized it as such. However, Instagram might not get sued for it after all.
Just after the feature was first released the internet was abuzz with memes and statuses. “Instagram copied Snapchat” was the battle cry. It’s no secret that Facebook has tried to acquire Snapchat and that the social networking app has refused. So now, Facebook has done the next best thing, incorporated the main feature of the app in to its own photo centric property. Why though, won’t such a blatant rip off carry consequences? For starters, Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom, acknowledged that they had copied Snapchat. He said he thought of stories as a format and that innovation is when you put your own spin on it.
Now putting it that way devalues “Stories” a little. Social networks have copied stuff off each other before like Twitter recently adopted the algorithmic feed from Facebook and Facebook adopted the hashtag from Twitter a few years ago. However, Stories isn’t just a format, it’s the bread and butter of Snapchat. But then again, it’s not like that hasn’t been copied a whole lot either. Look at how many photo centric social media apps there are. There’s tumblr, pinterest, flickr, Instagram itself.
Other opinions on the matter include Duke Professor Arti Rai who supports the “format” argument and says there’s no harm in it as long as “your expression is different”. PointSource’s Chief Digital Officer, Stephanie Trunzo also supports this argument by comparing Stories to the Facebook Status and says that they are different versions of the same thing. But that seems a little extreme. Sure you could make that comparison with the tweet but the Story is a very specific form of expression. Hell, just look at the user interface of the Instagram Stories feature. There is literally almost no difference between it and Snapchat. You press down on the camera button to record, swipe to add filters, pinch to enlarge text and swipe down to close a story.
Also, this isn’t the first time Facebook has tried to copy Snapchat. It released an app called Poke in 2012 that mimicked it completely but if fell flat and was deemed a failure.
Intellectual Property Lawyer Jeremy Harris’ opinion is that Snapchat won’t have a case against Instagram unless they find that it has copied the underlying code. If that argument sounds familiar you might just remember it from the Social Network when Jesse Eisenberg (playing Mark Zuckerberg) asserts that Facebook is different from the Winklevoss Twin’s HarvardConnection site because the code is different.
But it seems that Instagram can rest easy knowing that they won’t face legal action any time soon. And even if they do, there’s more than enough pocket change between their couch cushions to pay for any legal trouble.