UPDATE: The Zuck backed down and returned to the previously shitty TOS that is not nearly as horribly shitty as the new one. They say they’re going to rewrite the whole thing so maybe there’s a chance they can come up with something besides a lazy ass rights grab. Story on CNN.

In order to become friends with Mark you need to grant him rights to whatever you upload to their servers forever.

The story about facebook’s revised TOS  is making the rounds (I think the consumerist broke the story) and even garnered a response from the Zuck hisself (here) that I discovered on Harrington’s blog. In general all these sharing sites use similar language for their Terms of Service and User License Agreements because most of them have no clue how to handle the situation they’ve created for themselves with copyrighted material and figure it’s just easier to grab a license and sublicense.

I hope all the attention this issue is getting will force Facebook and other companies that allow you to upload images (pretty much everyone) to figure out better ways to restrict how content is used, where it’s displayed, where it’s stored … translated, cropped, scanned, edited…, so they don’t have to be so lazy and grab all the rights instead. After all none of these sites are worth a damn without the content people add to them.

Jim Goldstein has a good post all about the terms (here).

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  1. I typically take the tread lightly approach with the Facebooks, flickrs and myspaces of the world. They provide a service, for the most part free, which is great and provides extra exposure. The flip side is that they will take what they can get. I don’t do flickr, or myspace, but occasionally I will float some shots up to my Facebook page. It’s concerning for sure, but I often wonder what anyone will do with my 450px image? Regardless, if it’s not the provider interested in your images, it’s some else. Remember the 3m / flickr post-it-note story awhile back?

    Bottom line, filter what gets uploaded to these sites. Save the good stuff for more secure sites like photoshelter etc.

  2. Interesting post considering I’ve just spent the past few days finally developing my facebook page, making new contacts and reconnecting with old ones. I’d already decided not to upload any professional images. Zuck’s response doesn’t really say anything except, don’t worry about it, we need your permission in order to make facebook work properly. He doesn’t address the larger issue of rights transfer.

    It would be interesting to see if facebook would claim that a link to images, such as a website, falls under their rights transfer position.

  3. Thanks for posting this, as I watch The View (ha ha), the ladies are also discussing the rediculous. But it is more or less for the kids, youngins that post too many wild pics. Protection comes into mind. And yes, I delete so many pics that are not Professional for this reason. Truth be told that no matter what we do whether on FB or else where on the net, IT CAN ALWAYS BE COPIED! The law Mark claims to make is not really wise, ownership and taking what is ours.

  4. this is also the case with slideluck potshow if you want to add photos to your profile. same RF rights grab in the TOS.

    It should be noted though that the networking site is not actually run by Slideluck Potshow, but through by Ning, Inc.


  5. @ Adam S., sorry, but there is simply no comparing facebook’s Terms of Use/Service with Flickr’s… (I can’t speak to myspace as I’ve never been on it and don’t know what their ToU/S are.)

    It’s true, as Arlene C. says, that content uploaded to any site on the interwebs is at risk of being copied, grabbed, misused etc. by a greedy, unethical and/or unknowing public. But there’s a big difference between that kind of behavior, and the stated Terms of Use of an online service provider — whether or not that service is provided for free.

  6. Every site allowing posting of images seems to have similar terms/conditions. Some are better than others, but they all are legal boilerplate designed to protect the hosting site from lawsuits. I accept (e.g., Zuck’s comments) that most of these agreements are benign. There isn’t a conspiracy to steal the rights to images. It’s nothing more than legal ass-covering.

    However, forever is a long time. Markets change. So do the circumstances of posters and their subjects. I have no doubt that some of the unknown photographers posting on various Web sites today will become the superstar photographers of tomorrow. I also suspect some of the unknown models being used today will become celebrities in the future.

    Regardless of the intentions of the current terms-of-use agreements, any image that has value (monetary or news value) could be subject to a literal interpretation of the agreements. The bottom line is you have to think about anything you post to the Internet. If you are posting to increase visibility, fine. Just make sure any images you post are disposable (i.e., stuff you wouldn’t be devastated if it’s misused, or down-right stolen).

  7. What does this mean for links posted to Facebook, or photos hosted elsewhere that are imported into a Facebook news feed with the “import” function? Does Facebook also have a license for the original material?

  8. Here’s the latest posted on Facebook…

    They started a group with the following description.

    Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
    “This group is for people to give input and suggestions on Facebook’s Terms of Use. These Terms are meant not only to protect our rights, but to serve as the governing document for how the service is used by people around the world.

    Facebook’s philosophy is that people own their information and control how that information is shared.

    Our goal with the new Terms of Use is to express the principles around how users share and control their information in language that’s clear and accessible to real people.

    We welcome your thoughts and input, which we hope you’ll provide in discussions and Wall posts below.

    For more information about this, check out Mark’s recent posts on the Facebook blog:


    We look forward to reading your comments.”

  9. I have had subjects upload portraits I have taken of them to the site and I am curious to how that is dealt with. Does anyone have any info??

  10. I’ve been twittering and blogging about this since the weekend. Facebook’s TOS is more broadly defined than Flickr, Picasa, and other social networking sites. The broadest as far as I can tell, so they are definitely behind the times in that department.

    There is certainly a misunderstanding among most users of FB regarding two sections in the TOS. The first states that FB claims not ownership of user content. The second is the license users grant to FB which is the boilerplate royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual (which was the sticking point), ……., etc.

    Some users latched onto the “we don’t own your content” part without reading further and/or understanding the “license granted” part. Many users don’t care what happens to their crap when they upload it – “once you upload to the web you give up your ownership” while others, like myself, are trying to use Facebook as an extension of our brand, a networking tool, or at least experimenting with it to determine if it’s more than a waste of time.

    The collective bitch slap they received was well deserved and hopefully will result in a more user friendly TOS.


    “Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

    If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.”

  12. In the Facebook’s Rights Claim to User Content Just Expanded Exponentially section, Jim writes…

    ” According to the latest terms, any content that is linked to on Facebook including anything linked via the ubiquitous “share this link” to Facebook is now fair game for Facebook to claim license to use indefinitely.”

    Does this mean that if an artist (photographer, graphics designer, etc) posts a link to their (professional or not) website, Facebook can begin licensing its content??

  13. Rob thanks for the reference to my blog article. Your recent update sums it up nicely. Their “not nearly as horribly shitty as the new one” ToU is still exceptionally unfriendly to photographers and other creatives. It’s still over reaches (just slightly less now) and I can’t help but think reflects a very distorted internal culture driven more by corporate lawyers and less by community managers. While the actions taken to revert the ToU stem a more immediate PR nightmare and exodus of users, photographers should NOT be under the impression that everything is now fine with Facebook. Facebook’s assumption of rights to the work submitted by copyright holders or 3rd parties posting digital assets (photos, videos, music, etc) that they just happen to like, but don’t own needs to be fixed and fast.

    @Shahn to your question… much of their over reaching terms that have been withdrawn are questionable. The only way such determination could be made is if a final decision were made to a challenge in court. Facebook can claim all they want, but in the end if there is a dispute a truly legal ruling would be the only way to say with absolute certainty what they can or can’t claim rights to. The reversion to the older Terms of Use shows that someone at Facebook recognizes they’ve overstepped their bounds on some level, but they could just as easily try to squeeze something similar back in to the ToU in the future. Common sense to me says that no one in their right mind could claim rights to work on a web site whose link is placed on a Facebook page. To my knowledge it’s unprecedented, but I’m not a lawyer. Photographers should stay vigilant on this issue. Let them know of your displeasure and what you expect if you continue to use their service.

    • @Jim M. Goldstein,
      Thanks for your input and I was thinking along the same lines.

      My wife is currently in law school and from our discussions, it always seems that past court rulings heavily affect current disputes. So if Facebook (or any other sites) has the audacity to “use” (read: exploit) their members content then it could very well be unprecedented and lead the way for future cases.

  14. […] are now aware of their rights and have remained vigilant on the issue such as the case of Facebook and Google […]

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