Facebook now owns old content


facebook_small.jpgADOTAS — Facebook has changed its terms of service, and apparently now, if you close your account, it can do anything it wants with your old content.

The terms of service used to say that when you closed an account on its network, any rights it claimed to the original content would expire. But things might have changed.

“we reserve the right to change any aspect or feature of the Facebook Service at any time without notice. The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.”

Facebook can even sublicense content:

“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.”

Apparently the line that covered you if you did close your account is missing.

“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.”

I’m not sure exactly how much this matters to me, but I’m sure others have a better understanding of this. I’m also unclear about say, photographers who post their stuff. Would that be Facebook property?

UPDATE: Apparently, it is really bad for photographers.

UPDATE II: It has hit critical mass on twitter and digg.

UPDATE III: Facebook now says it needs to “communicate” better.

— Express your opinion, comment below.


  1. I’m wondering how prevalent this is for many of the free social networking sites. I skimmed over Ning’s terms of service and think it’s similar to Facebook. So Posters beware.
    Would be good if there was a survey made of many of these sites re:Intellectual property and rights. Any I.P. lawyers out there that know?
    Thanks for the article.

  2. I wonder if this would stand up in court. I am not a lawyer. However, just because these are posted terms of service doesn’t necessarily make them so. Example: bar posts sign, “not responsible for checked coats.” However, if the bar doesn’t take reasonable care with your checked coat, they could very well be responsible. Because I post a trademarked logo (one I created) does not mean I transfer all rights to logo use to Facebook. A court would have to decide this, and I bet Facebook has more money for lawyers than I do.

  3. I have a few friends who are photographers, and they’re always posting stuff. Does that mean their copyright material is automatically voided? Deep pockets may be important, Jonathan, but online opinion is ruthless. It wouldn’t take that much to get people to leave.

  4. Well, it seems as though we all have two (2) options.

    1. Never close your account.
    2. Anything posted has a copyright notice embedded in it, with the line “all rights reserved” added. It’s been a while since I had my music business class, but I think you can do this without having to hire a lawyer.

    True, Facebook probably has more money than any of us to go to court, but the EFF might have an interest in this too, in which case money for people like us won’t matter.

  5. Facebook’s terms and conditions, can not trump the rights reserved in a superior contract. If you sold coca cola a picture for an add campaigne with exclusive rights – facebook can’t legally use that photo without coca-colas permission. So if an “artist” created a company, and sold the rights to all images,songs,ect before posting them on facebook, facebook would be guilty of copy right infringment for using said”art”.. If these facts were presented to face book in the aftermath of said infringement, facebook would settle with whomever they infringed upon.

  6. In Australia; a person does not register copyright materials. Under Australian copyright law all they do is place ((C) Copyright, all rights reserved) next to the document, photo, etc and the work is automatically copyright protected.

    If you are worried about the copyright ownership all you do is post a digitally embed copyright notice within the photo. Regardless of the disclaimer notice placed by Facebook; that photo is regarded as prior art and recognized as a copyrighted protected photo under international copyright law. If there is no embed copyright it can be claimed the photo was posted as public domain content.

  7. I just think it is a disgraceful action and I really hope they change their mind for the sake of its users.

    I see that there is no limit for this type of invasion in out privacy and copyrights, and it makes me feel afraid. Are we really going to live in a massive Big Brother environment. I remember the movie BRAZIL and I really think it is unfair!

    I have decided not to load any more new pictures on my Facebook page and I hope will start moving back to the basics.

    I feel sorry for my child not having the opportunity to have a hint of my childhood, with n computers, no mobiles, no video games, no BIG BROTHER . Wow I was happy and I didn’t know.


  8. Maybe its just a scheme by facebook so they can start charging us to use facebook, so we lose both ways, because if we close the facebook account we lose our old content, but if we leave the account open then we have to pay for usage….just a thought


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