Instagram says its terms of service do not impose a sub-license on websites to add posts by other users. Ars Technica announced yesterday that, according to a company spokesperson, Instagram's policies "allow third parties to have the requisite rights from the relevant rights holders." "This includes ensuring that they have a license to share this content, if the law requires a license."

The news follows a legal setback for Newsweek earlier this week, when a New York judge ruled that a photographer's lawsuit based on Instagram's terms of service could not be dismissed by the newspaper. Previously, a different judge determined that Instagram could sub-license photographs to sites that embed its posts, protecting the Mashable site from legal action. The recent ruling does not disagree with this finding, but Judge Katherine Failla said that there was no evidence that Instagram gave such a sublicense.

Apparently Instagram is clearing up the situation in favor of the photographers. It did not specify which part of its policy covered embedding rights, but the copyright page says users retain "the right to grant permission to use your copyrighted work, as well as the right to prevent other persons from using your copyrighted work without permission," with no mention of exceptions for the embedded content.

Instagram told Ars Technica it was "exploring" more ways to manage to embed for apps. Photographers can only stop embeds for now by making private photographs, which strictly restricts their reach on Instagram. Even the Mashable ruling expressed concern about the "expansive transfer of privileges" from users by Instagram, so this will resolve a major underlying factor in both suits.

It doesn't automatically mean that Instagram images can't be used on pages. Neither judge ruled on what is called the "server test" — an argument that embedded photos do not copy photos in a manner that could infringe copyright, because they simply point to content posted on another site (in this case, Instagram).

Newsweek still has defenses if the server test fails, including invoking the law of fair use, so it's not categorically prohibited to embed an Instagram post. However, by removing a blanket of legal protection that would raise the legal stakes for embedding an Instagram post — and, depending on the policies of other sites, make embedding content from any social media platform more risky.