Rumor Control: Facebook Does Not Own Content Posted by Users

A chain Facebook posting that circulated on Monday asking Facebook users to proclaim copyright over all of their Facebook content left users wondering if they did not own the copyright to the material, including photos, they shared on the social networking site. 

This was the third time this year the chain posting spread around Facebook, and the company released a statement saying the "rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change to ownership of users' information or the content they post to the site" is "false": 

There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users’ information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been.

The post cites the "Berner Convention" instead of the proper "Berne Convention," and, according to Intellectual Property Professor Bill McGeveran, though "there are legitimate privacy concerns about Facebook; ownership of your content really isn’t one of them."

Simply put, Facebook users own the copyright to everything they post on Facebook but agree upon joining the site (by clicking the "I agree" button) to grant Facebook a license to use the content, which is how photos and status updates get into the feeds of Facebook friends. Users who do not want to abide by Facebook's rules regarding content sharing have only only option -- terminating their Facebook account. 

Here is the chain Facebook post:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).

For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.

And Facebook's legal notice regarding copyright states:

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 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.

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