Facebook Retracts “New” Terms of Service

Thanks to public outcry, Facebook today retracted their “new” terms of service–which generated an appropriately huge outcry–and reverted to their previous terms.

This is of interest to me, seeing that I’ve got a good bit of content on my Facebook page.

Their previous terms were pretty aggressive in their own right, claiming:

“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.”

But there was a reasonable “out”. And that out was this term, which appeared just below the above in their TOS:

“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.”

Basically stating that you could terminate any of their uses immediately by removing the content that was in question.

This uproar really started, by my understanding, when they… [click the ‘continue reading’ link below]

removed the lines above highlighting the “out”.

The long and short of it is that IMHO they’ve sufficiently addressed the concern for the time being. Do I wish that the TOC were perfect for photographers or anyone interested in posting content? Of course. But the legal nightmare of trying to protect and share at the same time are cumbersome, crappy, and messy at best. As such I believe, if we’re to read CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement literally (and I think we can), that the terms will continue to improve, or at least walk the line carefully in an attempt to be reasonable in that balance of sharing and protection.

I don’t think they want to take aim at using your photos for profit – they’ve got a maching that’s already strong at generating dollars. I think they’re more concerned about other legal snares regarding the passing of content. This bit of information posted from a Facebook representative in response to inquiry by The Industry Standard helps me believe this:

“We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload. The new Terms were clarified to be more consistent with the behavior of the site. That is, if you send a message to another user (or post to their wall, etc…), that content might not be removed by Facebook if you delete your account (but can be deleted by your friend). Furthermore, it is important to note that this license is made subject to the user’s privacy settings. So any limitations that a user puts on display of the relevant content (e.g. To specific friends) are respected by Facebook. Also, the license only allows us to use the info “in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.” Users generally expect and understand this behavior as it has been a common practice for web services since the advent of webmail. For example, if you send a message to a friend on a webmail service, that service will not delete that message from your friend’s inbox if you delete your account.”

Zuckerberg goes on to state quite clearly in his response that it’s not Facebook’s intent to generate revenue overtly from your images or video, but that they’re challenged with the legal requirements of what a social networking site like Facebook must claim in order to share content across networks. Most importantly, whether you take him at his written word (good for legal defense for us content creator, in any case of wrongdoing) or not, it is your own business how to handle this situation. If there’s content that you absolutely wouldn’t want a chance of being misused, keep it private. Ultimately your selection of what to post and what not to post, combined with your Facebook privacy settings, governs what’s in any sort of risk–however moderated–and what is not.

Speaking of Facebook – I do post original content there, words, pictures, and videos, that do not appear here. If you’re interested in visiting me at my Facebook page, please do. I’m also on twitter, via @chasejarvis.

For deeper reading, I found the Consumerist coverage to be pretty solid here. New Facebook TOS is here. Old TOS is here.

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