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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.
Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: “We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.” – The Consumerist
Facebook: Relax, we won’t sell your photos – CNET
Correction provided by Jonathan Bailey at PlagiarismToday
You can delete your account at Facebook via the following link:
Thanks for the link and for your post. I would be very concerned if I was a creative professional uploading my content to Facebook or linking to it from Facebook and I would be loathe to publish my content on any site that does not respect my licensing choices or my right to control my content and data.
Thanks for another great post. I really appreciate the info on how the revised TOS affect creative professionals.
I haven’t had any of my photos on FB in months. In light of the new TOS – I’m going to disable the automatic posting of my blog posts as FB notes and will have to rely on posting a link to the blog in my status.
There is quite simply no valid reason why facebook needs “an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license”
Thanks again for the great analysis
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As someone who has been maintaining a personal Web site since the mid 1990s and who has been blogging for well over 5 years, I still can’t see the purpose of putting real content (other than profile information) on Facebook and similar social networking sites. Why would you want to put your content on someone else’s server, under their control, with a possible loss of copyright protection, when you can put it on your own site or blog or photogallery and maintain more control? Free blogs are available to anyone on WordPress.com and other sites. The terms of service on reputable blogging platforms (like WordPress) do not take away your rights to your content.
Yes, I’m on Facebook. And yes, I have a bunch of friends there, most of whom found ME rather than me finding them. But I don’t have any content there and have no desire to add any. I urge people to stop contributing content to a site they have no control over.
Wow – I’m so glad I didn’t get any more involved with Facebook than I did. I just joined 2 weeks ago and now I’ve deactivated my account.
Jim – thanks for taking the time to put this info here for everyone. I will do my part to spread the word!
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Thankx for covering this so thoroughly. I posted a blog yesterday with many links and sent to my Facebook Group, Aperture Aside Photographer’s Resources, and to all the subscribers to the Aperture Aside Photographer’s Journal. I hope they in turn will spread the word.
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Great post Jim, and I thought you did an excellent job in the interview with Joe Vazquez.
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@Paul Jacobson Thanks for the great blog post you made and of course taking the time to comment here. Let hope that enough users on Facebook take note and help Facebook see the light to their errant ways.
@Lane Hartwell Thanks not just for the comment but your recommending me for the KPIX interview.
@Patty Hankins, @Sherri Meyer, @Aggie Villanueva I’m glad to hear that the information shared here has been of help. Seeing as how you’re all active online I hope our contribution to raise awareness to this issue and prompts Facebook to right their course.
@Maria On one level your thought is a solid one. Placing your content on another server opens you up to risk of losing control of how your work is used. In reality once a file is online, your server or not, there is inherent risk that someone else will take or use your work in ways you have no control. As such Creatives need to take precautions with how they prepare digital media they post online. In regard to the fundamentals of marketing if you’re not well known placing your content on 3rd party sites is a way to extend your reach. It makes sense for some who are in need of exposure. In relation to Facebook sharing your work with a close network of people who know and trust you are more apt spread word of your activities through word of mouth. Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool and can have substantial impact unlike other marketing tactics. Lastly there is much to be said for taking control of how and where your work is shared. One can either place their work in a walled garden in hope that no one will see or steal something or one can take a measured approach to do their best for a controlled release of their work. The later affords one to know where your work is rather than being completely in the dark to where others are posting your work. There are no sure things in regard to web marketing and the various tactics available are as plentiful as the range of risk people are willing to assume.
Thanks for all this information Jim. I have used Facebook to increase visibility of my work and reach of audience – but have stayed away from placing images there simply because I did not want to deal with any of their ToS b/s. But I would have the same concerns on any photo sharing website that seems to have similar legal jargon in their ToS. However, even with that, I still wonder what is the real risk here? I know you point to the Palin pic, but have there really been any photographers who have had misuse / misrepresentation of their images that hasn’t been within their control? The legal mumbo-jumbo is certainly alarming, but what language isn’t when it comes to lawyers writing it.
Wow!!! I had considered putting my photography onto FB, but after reading this I will have no part in letting them have anything. It’s pretty scary to think how much personal data is being stored from FB.
Nothing will change, the mass populaces will never know about this, and continue to put information willing to FB b/c all their friends, etc are apart of it.
also if your so worried about your content, watermark it. Make the watermark obvious, huge to cover the whole video or photo. This would make it a little harder for FB to use your content.
i hope none of actually think any of that would realistically hold up in a court of law. you know, since it violates copyright law and everything? just because a company puts stupid terms into their tos doesn’t mean they’re suddenly above the law. come on now, think rationally. 🙂
I object to this. I have posted photos on facebook that are personal to me. And I have had my friends post pictures that I have been in.
I feel that this should be challenged as an invasion privacy and if they are going to do this then they should allow a person a choice to delete accounts if they wish.
It won’t stop me from using it but may well make me thing what I put on it. I may well end up posting on Photobucket and putting links on my site.
I think that we should start getting at them on mass as this is not fair.
Very good read, although FB has reverted back to its original TOS until it can “resolve the issues with the update” which to me means, they’re going to sit on it for awhile until they can slowly slide changes in. They couldn’t take the cake in one bite, but they planning on nibbling at it again soon. Also, you can delete your account, but it takes an extra step and some hoop jumping. Go to the help section and search “delete account”. There are two options, disable and delete. They try with all their might to direct people to the disable button. With the updated TOS, delete was a misleading option anyway since you were basically just deleting your access to your account, not their access to it. With the original TOS, deleting forfeited their rights to use the information, even though it may still be on their servers.
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Thanks for the info. I deleted all my pictures and posted this link on my wall that I read this article and am all set with facebook. I was on it for about a month and a half. I also read an article about their Beacon that tracks the sites you visit and reports back to facebook even if you aren’t logged on to facebook.
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You can delete your account these days.