Are your intellectual property rights over personal photos and videos forfeited when posted to Facebook?
I am going to address both of these questions separately. Let us start with the first question. Can Facebook use your photos without your consent? No. Facebook does not have the right to use your photos without your permission. No one can use your intellectual property without consent. However, anyone who does post their intellectual property such as photos and videos to Facebook, are giving Facebook their permission. Wait! Hold up!
How are posting pictures and videos to their website granting them permission to use your IP content?
If you look under Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities section, it explicitly lays out their terms and conditions regarding IP content. The very first bullet under this section reads,
“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).”
By being a Facebook member, you are essentially agreeing to give Facebook permission to use your IP content as they see fit. Now let’s move on to the next question. Are your intellectual property rights forfeited once your IP content is posted to their site? Once again the answer is no. You still have control over your intellectual property. At any time you can end your licensing agreement with Facebook. All you have to do to end the licensing agreement is delete your IP content from their site. Once your IP content is deleted they can no longer use it. This is again explained in the first bullet under the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities section. The legal language reads as follows, “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.”
The real problem with Facebook is not that they have permission to license your IP content, but that pictures of you, not taken by you, are also posted on Facebook by friends, family and possibly enemies. Right now Facebook allows you to un-tag yourself from any unflattering pictures shared with you by someone else. Un-tagging a photo just means that the photo will not show up on your Facebook wall, but that does not mean it is removed from the photo owner’s page. This is a major downside with social media networks – the loss of control over one’s own identity. Sure, people have the option to sue for defamation, but what if the photo is not classified as defaming and is more a personal dislike for the photo. How many photos have we not liked that others have simply because we think we look fat? Defamation is any communication written or spoken that makes a negative claim, possibly ruining someone’s reputation. Does the picture of you smiling happily at the camera classify as defamation, just because you think you look fat in it? No. This is the real problem with Facebook. Your picture can be displayed for all to see on Facebook, even if you are not a Facebook member.
Facebook does try to control this by allowing their members the ability to report any IP content they think is abusive to their identity or their children’s identities. Next to posts, videos, and photos there is an options link that when clicked brings up a drop down menu. In the drop down menu the option to report/remove tag is made available. I recommend first asking friends and family to take down the IP content before reporting. Reporting IP content can get the person who posted it in trouble and should only be used as a last resort. Also for those who do not have an account but wish to report defamation activity, these individuals can submit an inquiry under their Help Desk section. Of course, by the time Facebook takes corrective action against defaming content, the damage to your identity may already be done, but at least there are some controls put in place to prevent the amount of damage done.