The facts of copyright, privacy on Facebook

Q: Will posting a legal notice on my Facebook wall protect my copyright and privacy rights when it comes to my pictures and personal information? 

A: It sounds like you’re referring to a reposting of a hoax warning that started circulating years ago as some form of copyright declaration when Facebook was going public.

There are many variations of this misinformation that tend to have a couple of elements in common:

“… pursuant to articles L. 111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data drawings, paintings, photos, video, texts etc. published on my profile and my page” and

“Those who read this text can do a copy/paste on their Facebook wall. This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright.”

The first red flag to any Facebook posting these days is when they encourage you to copy/paste the information to your own wall (it’s like the early days of email — “Send this to everyone you know!”).

Although the wording may appear to be some form of a legitimate legal declaration, it’s absolutely useless and unnecessary, based on what every user of Facebook agreed to when they joined the network.

If you review the terms of your use of Facebook, under the “Sharing Your Content and Information” section is this:

“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: 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 nonexclusive, 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.”

Anyone who claims you need to post a declaration to keep Facebook from using your pictures and information is sadly misinformed.

They don’t own your content, but you gave them pretty liberal use of it when you agreed to their terms and conditions.

If you’re not comfortable with this arrangement, you can delete your account, but when you do, if any of your friends at any point in time shared your content, it’s still completely usable by Facebook until your friends delete it as well.

Facebook’s whole raison d’être is to share content, information, Likes and behaviors with advertisers. Users aren’t the customers; they’re the product.

You can certainly control how Facebook uses your content to a certain degree through the privacy and sharing settings in your profile, but in reality once you post anything on a social network or on the internet at large, you should essentially assume you’re giving up control over what happens to it.

If you haven’t spent much time reviewing the numerous options you have for managing your profile, a fairly comprehensive guide is posted at security blogger Graham Cluley’s website.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer ServicesAsk any tech question on the Data Doctors’ Facebook page or via Twitter.

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