Copyright post on Facebook confuses

Facebook is to some the greatest thing on earth, to others a necessity and to the rest a form of modern-day narcissism. While it’s been around for nearly nine years, many users have only been using it for the past five. Since then it’s become a place for people to share nearly everything about their lives, with many arguably sharing way too much. This sharing has led to a number of security updates from Facebook, and each time the Terms of Service is updated, users freak out, often sending chain letters or posting on their wall complaining about who owns what.

The most recent letter popping up on user’s walls is a copyright notice. You’ve probably seen it and been curious enough, or enraged enough to share it. The problem is: it’s completely fake and 100% unenforceable.

The letter, which looks and reads something like this:
“In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, graphics, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner (sic: Berne) Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished (sic: punishable) by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates…”

If it sounds legitimate it must be, right? Wrong!
Here’s something you should know about this post:

  • The Berne Convention: This is at least a real act, and it focuses on international copyrights related to literary and artistic works. The problem is that it was established in 1886, almost 100 years before the Internet. Therefore, anything in relation to the Internet (read: Facebook) isn’t covered by this act.
  • Legal language: There is some legal language, or at least legal sounding jargon, in this post. For example: ‘By the present communiqué’. Communiqué is the French word for statement, it has no legal bearing whatsoever. The thing with legal language is that just because it’s included doesn’t mean the post is legally binding. Also, if this was a legal message, the ‘!’ wouldn’t be used.
  • Rome Statute: We’re not sure why the Rome Statute is mentioned here, as it covers mainly International crimes such as genocide and other serious war crimes. Last we checked, Facebook hasn’t been hauled to The Hague and put on trial for genocide or other serious crimes against humanity.

So, this post and many like it are useless. There is an important underlying issue however: Who owns the data, pictures, movies, etc. you post on Facebook? The answer: You do. According to Facebook’s Terms of Service you own any content you produce and put/share on Facebook, and have complete control over how it’s shared.

Caveat Emptor
There is a catch though. According to Facebook’s Terms of Service, “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.” Essentially Facebook can do whatever it likes with your photos and videos, and you are mostly powerless to stop them.

What can we do?
This policy sounds a lot worse than it really is, Facebook has publicaly said that they don’t use/sell user’s images or videos. The issue to many is that Facebook can use your content, and that’s what has experts so nervous. At this time, there isn’t much you can do, if you’re really uncomfortable with this policy, you could delete your pictures, or not post any to begin with. Another option is to contact Facebook’s customer service and ask them about potentially putting an opt-out clause on image and video content which allows you to determine if they can use your images or not. Who knows, if enough people do this, then Facebook may integrate it.

When it comes down to it, if you see posts like the one above, it always pays to do a quick search on the Internet to check the facts. If you’d like to learn more about Facebook and how it can help your company, please contact us.

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