Facebook Owns You(r Original Content Produced On or Shared Through Their Tubes)

Image for Art courtesy of Facebook.com.

Image for art courtesy of Facebook.com

Rest easy, Cacophoners; I just removed the “Share on Facebook” option from the “Share This” widget that appears beneath every post.

For those who don’t know, Facebook changed its Terms of Service last week, asserting a perpetual claim to use however it wishes certain content that you post on FB or that is shared on their network via a hosted “Share on Facebook” button.   A similar policy was in place prior to the change in terms on February 4, but Facebook’s claims to your  content used to expired when you deleted items or deleted your account.  That option ultimately gave users control over their content.

No longer. Here’s the key passage from the new ToS:

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.

Here’s the clause that was removed:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. 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.

This has produced no shortage of outrage, as well as a totally inadequate response from FB honcho Mark Zuckerberg that essentially asserts the ToS does not reflect Facebook’s true feelings about user generated content (to which friend of the Institute Matt Gold responds: “What matters is what they *do* with user info, not how they “think” about it!”).

Amanda French of NYU posted a really helpful run down of various ToS’s on other user generated content web sites, which highlights just how off-base and egregious Facebook’s claims are.  Boone B. Gorges of Queens College wonders about the pedagogical ramifications of this change, and also about what Zuckerberg’s response teaches us about the concept of  “sharing” in the digital age.

Ultimately, I hope Facebook sees the error of its ways, because it provides a unique, valuable, and often elegant service.  I have a network on FB which is almost entirely separate and serves a different purpose for me than my networks on Twitter, Ning,  LinkedIn, or BuddyPress; I’d hate to see that diminished.  At the same, anyone who blogs on Facebook’s blog utility should think long and hard before continuing.  Photographers who share their photos through Facebook should reconsider, or at least start watermarking the hell out the images they share.  Musicians shouldn’t upload MP3s of their compositions.  Faculty should reconsider any educational uses of Facebook.  Our students should be informed (though that’s nothing new).  Web masters should zap those “Share on Facebook” buttons from their sites (for clarification, if you post a link directly into Facebook, the claim doesn’t apply).  And those of us who have posted pictures of our kids on Facebook so that cousins abroad and childhood friends can follow their growth should be prepared to see those images used without our notification or permission.