Protecting Your Legal Rights on Facebook

Protecting your legal rights on Facebook is a tricky process. At least once per year, when Facebook updates its privacy policy, I inevitably see a stream of posts from individuals trying to protect their privacy and intellectual property rights by posting something such as the following:  

"As of January 3rd, 2015 at 11:43am Easter standard time. I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute or take any other action against me based on this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308-11 308-103 and Rome statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a not like this. If you prefer, you can copy and past this version. If you do not publish this statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE you MUST copy and paste." [sic]


Let me be very clear: posting this does absolutely nothing to protect what you post via social media. First, Facebook's terms are determined by the Terms of Service and intellectual property law. Second, the UCC is a model code and is not law. Where the UCC has been adopted, it only applies to commercial transactions, not intellectual property. Third, the "Rome Statute" establishes the International Criminal Court, which punishes war crimes, not civil matters. Posting this message is as relevant to protecting your legal rights as referencing Klingon law.

Let's get real then. What are your privacy rights on Facebook? As of today, January 5, 2015, the Facebook user terms of service provide for the following:


Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition: 

1)   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.

2)   When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

3)   When you use an application, the application may ask for your permission to access your content and information as well as content and information that others have shared with you.  We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.  (To learn more about Platform, including how you can control what information other people may share with applications, read our Data Use Policy and Platform Page.)

4)   When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).

5)   We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).


Legalese Translated Version

While you "own" what you post on Facebook, as long as it is on our site, we can use it however we want. In addition:

1)   If you post a picture, we can use it however we want as long as it remains on Facebook. This means that we can put your photo on a singles ad.

2)   You can delete a photo off of Facebook, but the photo does not disappear. In fact, if you are sued, we may be obligated to produce that picture for use in that lawsuit. Deleting the photo may even subject you to sanctions.

3)   If we can use it, so can plug-ins, such as FarmVille.

4)   If you make something public, it WILL show up on a Google search.

5)   If you tell us how to do our jobs, you will not receive a paycheck.


Bottom Line

Understanding your rights online is incredibly difficult, even for attorneys. In fact, there are entire continuing legal education (CLE) seminars that attempt to educate attorneys about social media (such as this one, and this one, and this one). The bottom line is this: if you post it online, it is there forever and anyone can get access to it, so be careful what you post.

BlogTripp WatsonComment