I fear that those who say that Instagram are unlikely to take any action beyond removing individual images following copyright claims by the originator are, in practice, right. They are probably only concerned about any legal liability that they may have, and may well judge that individual photographer-members of Shipspotting are not going to sue them. Morals do not seem to concern them.
In order to stay free from legal liability they, as a social platform which does not control what users post, have to establish their "safe harbor" under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US. They are protected providing they:
a) do not have actual knowledge that there is infringing content on their servers, or know any surrounding facts that would make the infringing use apparent;
b) do not receive any financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity if you have the ability to control such activity; and
c) act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the infringing material upon obtaining knowledge or awareness that the material is infringing or upon receiving a properly drafted notice of infringement
It seems from members' experience that they do take down individual photos when informed by giving a "properly drafted notice of infringement"
I don't think that Instagram receive any financial benefit as Instagram doesn't carry ads alongside infringing images (though that may be different for Facebook)However I am not sure that they are meeting the requirements of (a) and (c) when they have already removed some images, and been given evidence that there are many other infringing images and that the user is habitually adding new ones.
I am prepared to at least give it a try on behalf of members to see whether Instagram's designated Copyright Agent will respond at all. I think that to do that I need:
1) authorisation from, say, a couple of members to act on their behalf in relation to specific images (that should ensure that Instagram do not just ignore the whole message, and establish what form such authorisation must take),
2) some examples of Shipspotting images that have already been taken down following complaint (that establishes that there is already a pattern of successful complaints about "ship_spotter68/").
3) a sizeable schedule of other images stolen from us - Owen, could you please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org
) what you already have and I will expand it to (or by) a couple of hundred.
Any thoughts on this suggestion are welcome, as well as the specific help requested above.