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One year ago I wrote an online article titled Facebook’s Rights Grab: How Far Does It Go? detailing the unorthodox and exceptionally broad manner by which Facebook claimed rights to submitted content. At that time I made note that based on the broad terms I would no longer be uploading any of my photographic work to their site. In fact I went further and urged friends and family not to upload my photography to Facebook. Over the past year I’ve also urged other photographers I knew to avoid uploading content to Facebook as well. After 7000+ page views of my article, numerous off-shoot articles online raising the alarm bell about the Facebook ToU and Facebook responds less than a year later by expanding their claim to content contributed by their users.
Why You Should Be Extremely Alarmed
“We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to change or delete portions of these Terms at any time without further notice.
Diamonds and Now Facebook are Forever
Facebook now claims the right to use your submitted content (photographs, music, videos, etc.) even after you decide to disable your account. I should point out that you cannot delete an account once you create one on Facebook, they can only be disabled.
When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.
The bold text referenced above has now been removed and the License section of the ToU has been amended (see below) with new rights claims leading us to the following point..
Facebook’s Rights Claim to User Content Just Expanded Exponentially
Thought you were safe by not uploading content to Facebook? Think again. The new Licensing section of the ToU now goes even farther. According to the latest terms, any content that is linked to on Facebook including anything linked via the ubiquitous “share this link” to Facebook is now fair game for Facebook to claim license to use indefinitely. If the terms weren’t stacked in Facebook’s favor before they’re more so now as Facebook reserves the right to force you to remove their bookmark to Facebook links on your site while they claim the right to continue to use your content whether you’ve voluntarily stopped using their service or they’ve banned you from using their service.
You are solely responsible for the User Content that you Post on or through the Facebook Service. You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.
While Facebook informs you that you retain the ownership & copyright of your submitted content to their service, the ability to license it to the extent they claim is as good as saying they own it.
Facebook’s Missing Privacy Setting
Social Media: It’s About the Masses, Not the Individual
It’s important to note that Facebook has taken on a very strategic business model of developing a “closed community” to mine user data. That’s right, everything you enter or reveal about yourself on Facebook whether in your profile or through a Facebook application, is mined to develop pinpoint accurate demographic information to secure advertising revenue. This is why Facebook has a $1,000,000,000+ market value. Conversely Google mines data for it’s advertising engine in an “open community”, the web as a whole (note: also in a “closed community” via their Gmail application). The difference between the two is how they claim rights to shared content. I take a healthy skeptical stance on every company including Google even with their “You can make money without doing evil” mantra, but nothing raises my skepticism more than the recent assertions by Facebook’s legal counsel,
“We used to have several different documents that outlined what people could and could not do on Facebook, but now we’re consolidating all this information to one central place.” – Facebook Blog 2/4/09
Why be skeptical of a corporate lawyer? Their sole priority is to put the company they work for in the best standing possible for any foreseeable legal dispute.
The Emperor Has No Clothes
“Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with.” – Facebook Blog 2/16/09
Frankly Mark’s explanation does nothing to address the concern over the open ended licensing that Facebook claims. In fact the quote above could not be more of a red herring to the heart of the issue. Facebook’s “closed community” business model predicates that Facebook seek the ability to use submitted user content in as broad a fashion as possible and protect itself from unlawful use and spread of user submitted content. Except what their corporate lawyers have done is gone one step further by claiming rights to content outside of their “closed community” whether the creator of that content is a Facebook member or not. In actuality Facebook’s philosophy as defined by their actions is that Facebook has the right to use member information & content how ever they see fit, even if they don’t know the end result of that claim today.
Do I Have Your Attention Yet?
What Should You Do If You Are A Facebook Member?
If the recent revisions to the ToU alarm you and you want to continue using Facebook I recommend you…
- Contact Facebook to let them know of your concern and displeasure in the hope they revise them to be more friendly to copyright holders.
- If you have uploaded content directly to Facebook at a minimum I recommend you remove it until the ToU are more realigned to be more equitable.
- If you could not be more alarmed by these developments then you may want to consider disabling your Facebook account under “Settings” > “Account Settings” > “Deactivate Account”. If you take this extreme measure be sure to use the provided form to explain why you’re doing so. Accounts can always be reactivated since Facebook accounts are never deleted.
- Spread the word to your peers about this on going issue through email, other social media sites and as ironic as it sounds… Facebook.
What Should You Do If You’re A Professional Creative (Photographer, Musician, Videographer, etc.)?
If the recent revisions to the ToU alarm you…
- Raise this issue with Facebook directly by any means possible.
- Recruit professional associations you’re a member of to tackle this issue with Facebook.
- Update your contracts to restrict use of your work on social media web sites.
- Spread the word to your peers about this on going issue.
Correction provided by Jonathan Bailey at PlagiarismToday
You can delete your account at Facebook via the following link: