By Annie Kinny and Matt Burgess, Director.
Facebook has a “no refund” policy. You agreed to their terms when entering their world so posting something within it is just as useless to you and your friends as posting what you ate for lunch (again).
In response to a proposed change to Facebook’s’ privacy guidelines, users continue now to post a “copyright notice”, which reads something to the effect of:
“In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc…..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 post is being touted as ‘useless and worthless legalese’ and Facebook Australia’s response to the post is that “it is false. Anyone who uses Facebook, owns and controls the information and content they post and how that (information and content) is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been.”
The right to control the information and content that users post is done through the privacy and application settings and Facebook are correct in stating that users have the right to control the content and information that they post on their own page. However, any information or content posted in the ‘public setting’ allows others to access, use and associate the content or information with the original user. So in this context the use of the privacy settings gives some protection of Intellectual Property rights.
However, the key to all the kerfuffle is the ‘the right to control the content and information’. This right is ‘given away’ when you make any information or content public, such as your profile picture, date of birth and generally ‘known’ personal details. Friends will also ‘give away’ your personal information or rights when they tag you in a photo or tag your artistic works in the ‘like’ or ‘favourites’ setting. Facebook does respect the Intellectual Property rights of others and does not encourage users to post any information or content that would or would be likely to infringe another party’s Intellectual Property. Facebook also prohibits users from posting content that violates another party’s intellectual property rights and has a procedure for users to report a copyright infringement.
So… Facebook is looking pretty good when protecting Intellectual Property rights and as long as you use the correct settings on your account you can protect your rights and information. However, this does not prevent Facebook themselves from using any information or content you have entered and you essentially sign away any future rights in Intellectual Property posted on your page or posted by others. According to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, users give Facebook 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) subject to the privacy and application settings. The license only ends when you delete your account. However, if your content has been shared with others and they have not deleted their account, the license remains.
According to Facebook’s principles “People should have the freedom to decide with whom they will share their information, and to set privacy controls to protect those choices. Those controls, however, are not capable of limiting how those who have received information may use it, particularly outside the Facebook Service”.
The bottom line is that the statement made by Facebook Australia, which touts the legalese as untrue, is not entirely correct. You do own what you post but there are limitations once you have posted the information. If you do not wish to give away any intellectual property rights then it would be wise not to post your own works. Whilst the use of legalese is a little bit useless, the main point to take away from this is that, there is a general misunderstanding as to what users are ‘signing away’ when entering into social media communication sites such as Facebook. How many people actually read the terms and conditions and privacy policies when developing a user account or downloading an ‘app’ to your phone? Do you actually know what you are giving away?
For example; by downloading the popular Angry Birds, you ‘give explicit and informed consent to processing, use and disclosure of your personal data’.
This blog is for discussion purposes only. This must not be considered legal advice.
For legal advice on this topic and references to any information in this article, please contact
Matt Burgess, Director:
Phone: +61 405 722 739
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