Well, you can take the girl out of the law, but you can’t take the law out of the girl. Or woman. Or whatever. And my slumbering legal antennae have twitched recently on hearing comments to the effect that when you post your photos on Facebook, you “lose all your rights” to them to Facebook. This alleged surrender of rights was suggested to be buried in the small print of the terms and conditions.
I’m sure most kids using Facebook to post pics of their social lives aren’t bothered either way about this, but with so many artists now using Facebook as a showcase for work, I decided I needed to take a closer look. I found it hard to believe I had unwittingly in some way signed away all my rights in connection with my own work. So I asked leading international intellectual property law specialists and IP law firm of the year Kempner & Partners what they thought. Here’s what they said:
“Facebook’s written policy, expressed in its terms, seems quite clear: users retain ownership of all the content they post and simply grant Facebook a licence to use it. The licence ends when you delete the content or your account, unless your content has been shared with others and they have not deleted it.
But what about when someone takes the content off of Facebook? According to Facebook’s terms:
“When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information…”
That’s pretty loose language. It suggests that you grant a licence to everyone in the world to reuse anything you have posted! In reality, we doubt it has that much effect; in our view, the term is unlikely to be interpreted as allowing what would otherwise be an infringement of copyright. The term probably prevents you from taking action against Facebook if a third party infringes your copyright, but we very much doubt that the third party itself could rely on the term as a defence (not least because Facebook’s terms expressly do not confer any third party rights).
In conclusion, then, our view is that you probably will be able to prevent someone from copying elsewhere work you have posted on Facebook.
Coincidentally this morning as I was sitting to write further on this, I heard the announcement of the Hargreaves report on copyright law, which it seems has made recommendations about how people can best enforce copyright to their own work online and protect their ideas. I haven’t looked at that report, but no doubt there will be plenty moe on this topic in the months to come.