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Good Question: Does Facebook Own What We Post?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Cyber Monday, it wasn’t a Facebook status about a great deal on shopping sweeping the social networking site. It was a status update proclaiming copyright over content.

“In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc,” read one version of the chain posting being reposted repeatedly.

The post suggests that if you don’t explicitly proclaim your copyright, “you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.”

One problem: That is not true, according to Bill McGeveran – an intellectual property and online law expert at the University of Minnesota School of Law.

“Facebook has remarkably clear terms of service, but there’s still a lot of gobbledy gook in there,” McGeveran said.

He said no matter how many legal codes you cite, you can’t unilaterally change a contract in a status update.

“The contract came when you signed up and clicked ‘I agree,’” he said.

So the posting doesn’t do anything. But if it did, would it be necessary?

“There are legitimate privacy concerns about Facebook; ownership of your content really isn’t one of them,” McGeveran said.

Facebook doesn’t own the photos or the updates you post on the site – you do.

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook,” according to the legal notice on the site.

“You give Facebook permission to use it. Facebook has to have permission to use it, otherwise they have no way to get it into your friends feed,” he said.

It’s the next part of the terms of service that can be a little more complicated: “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.”

Essentially, you just give them permission to put it on their network and share it, McGeveran said, noting that Facebook doesn’t really wants your cat pictures or grammatically incorrect status updates.

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