Facebook and Content, why it should matter to you.

As I write this post many of my Facebook readers will notice that the total number of “notes” I have posted has been reduced. This is due to a recent exploration of the Facebook Terms of Use. With many rumors flying around about Facebook selling personal data to third parties, I began an investigation of their terms and how they apply to individual user content.

As they are written now the Facebook terms state

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

This agreement gives Facebook a blanket license to use, reuse, and even sell your creative work to third parties, use in advertising, and many other possible uses.

I contacted Facebook regarding these terms and was responded to by they very helpful Zack. In his correspondence with me he stated

While it is highly unlikely that Facebook will ever use material you upload to site, this previous clause states that Facebook retains license to do so. This license does not affect ownership or copyright privileges for material uploaded to the site.

While he never states that Facebook will not use my or your content and this is just a legal protection, he suggests it is quite possible they could use my content, it is just unlikely. However, he is right. Their terms do not negate your rights to your material. It just gives them free reign to use it as they will, without having to obtain your permission.

Since it was obvious this was their stance and they were not moving from it I considered their potential over-reaching of their terms of use. With these blanket rights a writer like myself looses all value and control over their work to a blanket license transfer. It’s akin to making a movie, releasing it, but giving permission to theaters to hand out free DVD’s of that movie regardless of a ticket purchase.

Given this I also investigated other opinions and in a recent CNet podcast the Buzz Out Loud crew stated that this is typical of all online sites such as MySpace, Friendster, etc. Thanks to the investigations of Matthew Gillard I come to find out that the Blogger – arguably the largest blogging site – terms of service state

Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services.

This forward thinking usage agreement helps users retain full control over their content and retains any value it might have.

So what why should you care. Well if you are a creative type, you feel that the pictures you take, video’s you edit, stories you write, have potential value then you could be at risk of having your content reused without your permission or remuneration. This is how the current terms work within Facebook and I for one am not comfortable with it. This is something we all have to consider when posting any content to sites like Facebook. What are implications of uploading? Who has access to see? Who is my content being shared with? Is someone else using my content for direct or indirect profit?

Something for you to consider, as such I have removed my blog content from Facebook. Readers can view it at www.christophermercer.net

BTW that earlier comment about Facebook selling user data. I have found no basis for that accusation, fact is that personal data is protected under the same terms of use.

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