A Facebook New Year’s Resolution

I have a resolution for you that will be easy to keep. I’ll give you a hint. You can spend a lot of time with it. It shows up about every 4 to 6 weeks. You always preface your actions by saying “better safe than sorry” or “I wasn’t sure, so I want to be safe.” Your friends jump on the bandwagon too. What I am talking about?

This. This right here.


It’s the Facebook notification you post as your status that tells all of Facebook and your Facebook friends that all photos, status posts, anything you share or anything you comment on is yours forever and ever amen.

How plain can I make this next statement? It’s an online hoax. It was an online hoax last month. It was an online hoax six months ago, and it will continue to be an online hoax a year from now. If you all are thinking, “Well, maybe Ryanne, albeit a great intellectual property attorney, is wrong on this one,” let me try and convince you.

Your Use of Facebook Is Governed by Facebook’s Term of Use.

Facebook is free. When you signed up for the free service you agreed to certain Terms of Use, which can be found HERE. Your continued use of their website, owned by them, controlled by them and used by you for free is governed by how Facebook says you can use their product they are providing to you for free. Did I mention it is free?

They can change their Terms of Use at any time. As it relates to intellectual property rights you might create in say photos, the Terms of Use at this moment state:

“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.”

What this means is that Facebook has a right to use your content and photos. They do not have an exclusive right, meaning you can license out the content to others. However, they do have a limited right to use it without paying you a licensing fee. By use of the word “transferable” that also means they can provide your content to others.

What? You mean Facebook does not have to get my permission before passing off my content to others? Yes, technically. But, you will see they have a disclaimer that says “subject to your privacy and application settings.” What this means for you is that anything that is considered “public” with no restrictions is up for grabs by Facebook until you delete it. If you want a bit more protection, then set your profile, photos and content only to people you are actually friends with.

“But, Ryanne this isn’t fair. These are MY vacation photos.” You’re right. It isn’t necessarily fair. However, as fun and saturating as it is to our society, Facebook is not a necessity. It isn’t a natural right like voting or freedom of religion.  Further, how much have you ever spent using their service? Keep in mind you can limit their ability to share and use your content by privacy settings. Finally, if it truly is precious and you do think you might have the next hit Beyoncé song or John Grisham novel, just don’t post it on Facebook.

Privacy Concerns

The above hoax also waxes on about privacy concerns. Here’s the deal – it’s social media. Every time you post just realize that it could be subject to sharing by your friends and friends of their friends. It is the viral nature of it all. Further, if you commit a crime it really isn’t anything for the justice system to get warrants to search your online and computer equipment. Posting a status will do nothing to change that.  If you would not share it to someone in person or it is really private, then do not post it on Facebook.  Some aspects of life are not meant for social media.  I’m looking at you Kim Kardashian and those that post “in the moment” birth photos.  Trust me, no one wants to see it.  Just be in the moment and keep your private moments private or between close friends.

The Rome Statute and the UCC 1-308-1

I love it when people cite things that seem official. It gives this nerd a good laugh. There is no difference here.

The UCC, abbreviation for the Uniform Commercial Code, deals with the sale of goods between merchants. For example, you own a store that sells tiaras and other sparkly merchandise. You agree to purchase items to sale in your store from Sparkly Things-R-Us Wholesale supplier to sell in your store. The terms of the contract outlining purchase price, delivery and warranties would be governed by the UCC.

Here, we’re talking about Facebook. Who is the merchant? Where is the sell? In short, the UCC has absolutely nothing to do with privacy or intellectual property rights.

My favorite is really The Rome Statute. The Rome Statute is a treaty which established international criminal court and designated certain really awful actions as international crimes, things like genocide. It has nothing to do with privacy or intellectual property rights.

International intellectual property rights can be governed by the Berne Convention. The Rome Statute, albeit official sounding, is more applicable to when you procrastinate and your fingers “roam” to Facebook. But, seriously, it does not apply to Facebook.

Facebook one day at some point in time might change their Terms of Use to include unlimited rights and access to everything you put on their service, but today or recently is not the day. You can be sure that if that ever happens it will be all over the news feeds from more official sources like NPR, the Associated Press and every major news outlet. You will not have to wonder about an obscure “Channel 13” that is referenced. The good attorneys at Facebook too would try and preliminarily do some damage control by giving every user ample time to readjust and remove anything before it becomes up for grabs.

You can post a status, paint yourself purple, stand in the street singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow,” but it will not change Facebook’s Terms of Use or what you agreed to by using their free service. By posting the status all you are announcing to your Facebook friends is that you fell for an online hoax. Let’s all resolve to give up this trend. Oh, and if it resurfaces, be sure to share this blog post.

While this blog is subject to copyright protection, help out your friends on social media.  Please share, re-blog and re-post this entry.  Happy New Year! Take part in the Comments section below and Stay Tuned In!

If you liked this post, please share it and click the FREE Subscription button above to get more! Follow and tweet to me on Twitter where I pass along the latest entertainment law, broadcasting and intellectual property news @RyanneDSaucier

7 thoughts on “A Facebook New Year’s Resolution

  1. RyAnne

    Thanks for the post. You have done a great service to let folks know of these policies.

    Warm regards.

    Jim Rosenblatt Dean *Emeritus* and Professor of Law Mississippi College School of Law (MC Law) “Let Justice Roll”

  2. Nice analysis of the limited license we grant FB. I’ve often wondered why we don’t charge FB for its use of our content..haha! So far, I’ve only had 1 FB friend post the resolution. Maybe I need more friends:) Happy New Year Ryanne!

  3. Pingback: Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law for 2015, So Far … | Statute of RyAnne

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