You Oughta Know: Facebook and Your Copyright

When you join a social networking website — remember that the key word is social. You don’t go onto a blog, Facebook or Twitter to keep information to yourself. You go onto those sites to share thoughts, photos, links and more.

Don’t want anyone to see or be able to use — legally or otherwise — your work? Don’t post.

Truly, that is the only way you should have a reasonable expectation of privacy or copyright protection. Tough but true.

Now, having said that, I have seen so many of my friends posting things like:

“In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details…”

I get it, I do. You don’t want “the man” to be able to profit from your thoughts, and you want to try and protect yourself from unauthorized use.

But posting that sentence on Facebook is, to steal a thought from my good friend Ian, “the equivalent of hanging your head out the window and shouting at the red-light cameras that they don’t have permission to take your photo.”

See what says — in summary, Facebook can not retroactively change its terms (which you signed via terms and service when you signed up for Facebook) and the fact that it has become a publicly traded company has no bearing on those terms.

Now, there is some truth to the fact that Facebook is considering changing the way its features are developed and released, and more to the point — what right you have to vote on those changes. Here’s part of an email that Facebook sent many of its users, including me:

We recently announced some proposed updates to our Data Use Policy, which explains how we collect and use data when people use Facebook, and our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explains the terms governing use of our services.

The updates provide you with more detailed information about our practices and reflect changes to our products, including:

  • New tools for managing your Facebook Messages;
  • Changes to how we refer to certain products;
  • Tips on managing your timeline; and
  • Reminders about what’s visible to other people on Facebook.

We are also proposing changes to our site governance process for future updates to our Data Use Policy and SRR. We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period but have found that the voting mechanism created a system that incentivized quantity of comments over the quality of them. So, we are proposing to end the voting component in order to promote a more meaningful environment for feedback. We also plan to roll out new engagement channels, including a feature for submitting questions about privacy to our Chief Privacy Officer of Policy.

We encourage you to review these proposed changes and give us feedback before we finalize them. Please visit the “Documents” tab of the Facebook Site Governance Page to learn more about these changes and to submit comments before 9 AM PST on November 28, 2012.

(Also posted on Facebook’s blog here.)

There are a lot of reasons to question Facebook, so I don’t mean to scold. Research, challenge, raise issues…but remember, you chose to join Facebook and you have access to all of the rules. You can leave at any time by deleting your account. But this is a free service and you really can’t have a reasonable expectation that you can use it without some relinquishment of your property (IMHO). Remember, I would pay for Facebook.

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  1. says

    Well said. When you post on FB or Twittee, you should know that you no longer have control. That is what that share button is about. You could write the most amazing, insightful thing but 25 shares/retweets from now nobody is going to know it’s you. If you think it’s copyright worthy save it for a book. :-)

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