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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Good Day! yes they did. Indeed, some are changed. But it’s ok. For me, I still go for Facebook.

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Wow I never read those terms so I didn’t know they were so damn controlling. That’s really shocking how much they claim to have rights to.

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The problem is not even always the service provider – but that was some scary legal jargon – but I’ve been a victim to unscrupolous copying from websites and pasting into web-ads etc. Luckily the ad agency got involved with threatening legal action etc. It’s a tightrope – people are lifting stuff off the net like crazy and using it in obscure little websites for promotion. 100×100 pix pics are good enough for small ads. Facebook (and flickr especially) has produced many a website’s art without the authors of the work knowing it. I see it working with clients who use these images for mock-ups and then eventually publishing it because the client suddenly became “reluctant” to pay for art. IT’s all rubbish, I know, but it happens. When you post to Facebook – be ready for some plaguerism….and as for marketing…. like flickr you’re often only marketed to other photographers, not money carrying clients.

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I think this is one of those cases were Facebook is trying to explore the new realities of the world we live in; sometimes they pull it off well, and sometimes they mess up, but it’s better to be experimenting than just leaving things the way they are and never innovating.

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What is encouraging to me is that monsters like adobe and facebook have been held accountable for their actions and that the door has been left relatively wide open regarding the importance of transparency and open dialog regarding these terms they put forth.

A contract is a contract, doesn’t matter if its a public online service or otherwise. Both parties need to agree, or one side (the end user here) is more than likely going to walk away if they aren’t happy with the terms.

Yeah @ Chase & Timothy… There's no way I'll upload any of my prize landscape photos without a serious watermark, and ALL of my misc. commercial work has zero reason to be on there, period. Not to mention that an NDA might be involved if it's for un-published material… But since I shoot mostly weddings and almost every bride I meet these days already has a facebook account, I just assimilate stuff like this into my business model. Sure, I could make a few hundred bucks off each wedding by making brides pay for the right to upload their wedding photos… But I believe we live in a changing world that needs to be embraced. So I just hike up my prices a little bit across the board, and give 'em free run of places like Facebook.

I DO HOWEVER strongly advise my brides that certain places, such as Flickr or DeviantArt, are a cesspool of image theft and they ought not to upload anything high-res anywhere public, period.


Indeed, Facebook has a tricky line to walk. The entire concept of sharing rapidly generated content the way we do it is totally not part of the copyright system that was essentially morphed into place to service content that took long periods of time to create. Our current framework is designed around things like books, movies, ads, songs—things that took time to create and which there are corporations behind to ensure registration and all the rest.

The way we work today has so rapidly outstripped the current legal tools that, well, when Facebook’s lawyers try to righty protect their client against the kinds of legal problems that can arise from swapping content around in relation to the laws in place, they almost have no choice but to go too far. Finding a line that describes what is reasonable in the context of the legal system is a tough one, indeed.

Not that I really want to defend Facebook here.. It’s more that I think one takeaway from this discussion needs to be that this is more evidence of the creakyness of our IP system in relation to the digital universe we now inhabit.

Major props to Mark Z for his post and his attempt to clarify. More companies should try to talk about such sticky issues in plain english. Maybe then we could get somewhere with all of this.

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I dig the openness and transparency you provide into your work for schmucks like me who work office jobs and like to see what a pro is doing, living the dream, when he doesn’t have to be tied to a “day job”.

So…it’s nice to see that you post some cool stuff on Facebook, and didn’t panic and delete all your content the moment the new TOS was posted.

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Wow. Interesting.

I think I agree with Matt’s last paragraph, but also agree with you, Chase, in the respect of… if you have a client or do some work that you might have royalties to because of the published image and then post it on Facebook to later see someone has used it to market themselves, it can be frustrating. Flickr has this problem more often than not.

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The complexity does transcend the simplified version you put forward regarding promo, etc, but I the core takeaway here we should value is Facebook’s recognition of inadequate terms and a move toward making things better. Having all that stuff on the public record bodes well for us in the biz of content creation.

Word up.

First they say “it doesn’t apply to photos you post, just to content you create *while on* Facebook. Then they go 100% back to their original terms!

But here’s the shocker, and the kinda thing you’ll NEVER HEAR from the mouths of any camera company rep- They said something to the effect “we need to work on our communication skills…”

Go Facebook! (Personally I don’t care WHAT they do with the tiny little 750 pixel images I upload! Free publicity!)


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