Facebook Terms of Service Update

Comments 20 by Rebecca Bollwitt

I’m always hesitant to grant permission to aggregator sites to redistribute my content, I mean I license my entire site under a Creative Commons License although sometimes those “attribution” or “non-commercial” bits get lost in the shuffle.

One thing I never did was republish my content on Facebook as well, knowing that they would probably somehow determine they have the right to whatever I post so I thought it best to avoid that mess. Turns out with the newly updated Facebook Terms of Service this month, it was a wise decision on my part — but does it even matter?

Facebook’s terms of service (TOS) used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want. [Consumerist] — [see also: Slashdot]

Thing is, you can still delete content before you close your account (should you choose to do so) but it’s still a pretty sticky situation for many.

Some may argue that Google republishes and spreads content ie. through image searches but the main thing is that I’m linked, credited, and remain the owner — no matter how far out into the webosphere things may fly.

It’s been said before but I think everyone should pretty much know by now that once you upload something to the internet, it can travel around the world millions of times (getting saved and redistributed along the way) before you even wake up and wonder why the heck you took that photo last night.

Update: From the Facebook blog

In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.

We still have work to do to communicate more clearly about these issues, and our terms are one example of this. Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant. A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you. Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler…

… “There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.” – CEO, Mark Suckerberg [Read more]

Update Feb 17, 2009: Due to the outcry, they have reverted to the previous TOS.

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20 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Tyler IngramMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:30pm PST

    I just removed my RSS feed from Facebook. I stopped uploading photos (unless they are of friends/family and need to be tagged) to them because of their ToS. If I create it, I want credit for doing so. With the new ToS (as I read really quickly)they own all of it and can use it for whatever purpose they see fit without giving attribution or monetary payment etc.

    For now I’ll just ‘Share a Link’ to my various blog posts. Too bad, I have a bunch of people on Facebook that do not use Twitter or RSS feeds and use FB to follow me at times.

  2. Miss604Monday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:31pm PST

    Yeah, I share links every now and then because you’re still getting the information out that way. It’s tough to “police” things like this but the first step is just being aware of what you publish online and just who might then have the rights to re-use it. Not to go into mass paranoia mode, I don’t worry all that much about it really (and I’m more inclined to go after those aggregator sites than FB actually, any day of the week).

  3. Shane GibsonMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:32pm PST

    My thinking is that they are covering themselves from being sued for re-distribution by other members too. You post a great photo, I take it, load it up to my profile as mine. You quit Facebook then launch a suit for an-authorized use against them because I still have your image in my profile etc. There’s 100 different ways one could come at them legally. I think it’s to protect themselves, not to ensure they can steal your stuff.

  4. snowboardexpertMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:33pm PST

    what if someone saved the photos onto their computer, then post it illegally in their facebook photo album, does facebook still own the rights to those photos? I find that lots of my readers do that without asking for permission.

  5. Shane GibsonMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:34pm PST

    What about at watermark with a copyright image on the photos? Even if someone ie. Facebook wanted to use the photos it would have a watermark on it, useless for commercial use then?

  6. Shane GibsonMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:35pm PST

    @tyleringram If all of my connections were on Twitter I would delete my Facebook account for sure.

  7. Miss604Monday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:35pm PST

    @ Shane, very good points – all of them.

  8. Miss604Monday, February 16th, 2009 — 12:37pm PST

    @ snowboard expert – there’s not much you can do really. I know if I post my friend’s images (from their Flickr) on my Facebook I usually just link to them/the source in the comments field… that’s about all you can do, or do the watermark thing as Shane suggested.

  9. RobCottinghamMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 1:01pm PST

    Shane, I’d be perfectly happy if Facebook asked me to waive any liability for others misusing the content I posted to their site. But that’s nowhere near the scale of granting of rights they’re demanding in this TOS.

  10. BlissfulGirlMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 1:48pm PST

    Facebook also has a number of musicians and artists who post content to their fan pages in the form of songs or photographs of art work. I’ve recommended that my clients who do that stop immediately and instead post a link for the materials hosted elsewhere.

    My interpretation is that they’re pretty much stuck with respect to any content that they’ve already uploaded since the previous TOS included the right to update the TOS without warning. To me, that means not adding any new content at all.

    I understand this is to protect themselves as opposed to Facebook actually using the materials for their own gain … but it just seems too slippery of a slope to me.

  11. JordanMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 1:58pm PST

    Wow, what a huge fuss over something that seems (at least to me) very trivial.

    Fact: Most all information and content sharing sites have scary, air-tight TOUs that give them license to use your content (As Shane points out, to protect them from litigation, should it ever actually be used in promotional materials, for eg.).

    Fact #2: In the Consumerist story, “License” somehow morphs into “ownership” and the full extent of what Facebook has the rights to do is listed. A rather paranoid viewpoint for the sake of linkbaiting, imo.

    Facebook is not likely ever to re-use your content for any reason. They simply don’t care about you, sorry. Should your image ever appear in a Facebook ad (however unlikely), I’m afraid you’ve signed over that right. If this concerns you, maybe content sharing isn’t for you.

    Fact #3: This seemingly alarming change to their TOU warns that your content might survive your deleting it (which seems to me to be a suitable clause considering the viral nature in which content is copy and spread, the way Rebecca points out above).

  12. OrangeBigMacMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 2:01pm PST

    Please, what’s the big deal? You upload stuff to a social network to make it public, even if it’s just to your friends! If you are putting stuff on the web that you don’t want to be seen, then it shouldn’t be on a social networking site like Facebook in the first place.

    Sorry to come off a little abrasive, but I’ve been reading posts about this all day where people are complaining.

  13. Miss604Monday, February 16th, 2009 — 3:15pm PST

    @ OrangeBigMac – True, do not upload things you don’t want to be shared or seen in public. The issue here is that many people do not realize how public what they upload might truly be. I’ve seen many inappropriate comments on blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. and what a lot of people don’t realize is that those all become searchable in Google (by your mom, your boss etc. even without you *knowing* they’re there). However I think this has moved away from the original licensing discussion a bit…

  14. RaulMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 4:13pm PST

    I uploaded my 25 things meme (I should’ve tagged you, but I didn’t want to impose any more writing on you!) today to Facebook. Originally I was going to import all my RSS feed (Karen Hamilton showed me how to do it) but then I thought about it. As you have seen on my newly minted Facebook profile, all I do is post on walls back and forth. If I get tagged on a photo, it’s more than likely I’ll remove the tag. I prefer to have as much control of my content as I can 🙂

  15. JP HoleckaMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 4:33pm PST

    I stopped posting original material on FB last summer. Now it is just links, blog summaries and filckr slideshows. The blog summaries push to my blog and I get a lot of traffic the site from there. The flickr slideshows are low rez and embedded in Flash so they are safe from FB and the links that I post? Hell they can own those if they so choose. Might be a tough one in court but there ya go.


  16. TawcanMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 4:35pm PST

    Don’t upload stuff onto Facebook that you wouldn’t share with other people. Afterall it’s a social network, it’s all about sharing information. If you’re worried about companies owning your stuff you should just unplug, stay home, and never take one step outside of your home.

    Having said that though, I’m going to stop uploading my artistic pics on Facebook just to be safe.

  17. GZ ExpatMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 4:35pm PST

    Like the iTunes cult, I refused to be drawn in by the Facebook cult. It’s far better to own your own domain and website and update and do as you want when you want to.

  18. Ray EbersoleMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 4:40pm PST

    Okay, I’m not overly upset, but it seems like too much control by Facebook to me. Being a technology support professional in the education field I’ve always been careful about what I post online in my blogs, Facebook or any comments.

    What you post is what the public see’s, becoming your personality. Current and possibly a new employer could see what you have posted, not like it and then you are left explaining or without that new job.

    Common sense, a slow trigger to read the whole picture helps. Wait a few days then look at it again. Is it really that big of a deal?

    As of now, it’s a pain, I don’t like it, I would like it gone, I think Facebook doesn’t understand PR and I’m going to continue just as I have because I don’t have anything posted that I would worry about anyone having.

  19. Tris HusseyMonday, February 16th, 2009 — 5:02pm PST

    Yet another reason to hate Facebook…

    I just nuked all my albums from FB.

    No reason to have them there, it’s all on Flickr.

  20. claudia OlivosTuesday, February 17th, 2009 — 3:45pm PST

    Very nicely said!
    I am posting a link to this blog on my blog…let me know if it’s not ok!
    I lost 40 fb friends over night after these news traveled around the blogosphere and tweeter!


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