Facebook: What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is ours

Some people tend to see social networking sites like Facebook as a way to market themselves. But I’m guessing most people don’t realize that the content of their Facebook pages basically becomes the property of Facebook to use pretty much how it likes forever.

This month, Facebook updated its Terms of Use. Here’s what the 13th paragraph says:

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.

(Emphasis added.)

Translated from legalese: not only can Facebook use anything you put there — pictures, posts, what have you — however it wants at no cost forever, it can also use your name and photo “for any purpose” forever as long as the use is somehow “in connection with” Facebook or the promotion of Facebook. Moreover, here’s what Facebook deleted from that paragraph: “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.”

Don’t like it? Tough. The Terms of Use say at the outset that Facebook “reserve[s] the right, at our sole discretion, to change or delete portions of these Terms at any time without further notice. Your continued use of the Facebook Service after any such changes constitutes your acceptance of the new Terms.” So, even though you weren’t given direct notice of the change, if you’ve used Facebook in the last couple weeks, you’ve agreed that it can use your name and photo.

Granted, most of us probably don’t have a lot of material on Facebook that’s of value. But if you’re an artist, do you really want your work appearing in a Facebook ad without compensation or perhaps any attribution? Do you want the photo a friend posts that makes you or your spouse look silly being used to promote Facebook without your permission?

Hoping to quell an internet uproar about these provisions, Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook, sought to reassure users in a blog post Monday afternoon. “In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want,” he wrote.

Let’s assume Zuckerberg is sincere and somehow knows how any of us would want any information shared. I hate to tell you, but in reality his statement carries no weight compared to the Terms of Use you have already agreed “you have read, understand and are bound by.”

The bottom line? To paraphrase an old internet catchphrase: “All your content are belong to us.”

UPDATE: Facebook Wednesday announced it has withdrawn the new terms of use. Here’s what it posted:

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.  For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Actually responding to user complaints. Quite the concept.

If we have a property system, and that system is properly balanced to the technology of a time, then it is wrong to take property without the permission of a property owner.

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture

1 comment to Facebook: What’s ours is ours and what’s yours is ours

  • Sadly, most people would not have looked closely enough to notice the change in Facebook’s Terms of Service… looks them social networkers are doing a good job of looking out for each other