Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Whither Facebook's TOS?

I was all set to rant this morning about the revised Facebook Terms of Use, which was changed recently to read (in part):

"You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof."

The Terms also said that if you cancel your account, that Facebook can retain your content and use it according to the paragraph above.

Harrummppff! They can do whatever they want to do with my precious words, feelings, memes, photos, tweets and pithy Facebook comments? Oh, I apparently still hold the copyright on all of that, but they can use it, publish it, "modify" it, etc. My first thought was "Who would care about what I've written and posted? It has no lasting value. I'm not that creative or colorful." My second thought was "oh sh!t - remember what you said to ..." and my third thought was "well, you've revealed some personal things in the stupid memes that FBers play..."

So I thought about what I should do - drop it, modify my submissions, or keep going as I have been. I developed a strategic Facebook plan which, should I implement it, now includes:

* removing the RSS feed to my blog posts, thereby removing these august posts on Genea-Musings from Facebook eternity (except for the ones already posted).

* stop posting photographs, especially of my ancestral families, to Facebook. It's been a good storage place, but there are other free sites.

* the remaining items - responding to memes, posting Facebook pithy comments or tweets, are not that "precious" to me, nor that creative.

* continue posting to the Groups I belong to because of the collaborative aspects of the groups, especially Unclaimed Persons.

I still think that Facebook is the best collaboration medium at this point in time. That opinion may change when the next best great thing comes along to easily connect many people with a common interest.

Then I read Update on Terms on the Facebook blog:

"Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

"Going forward, we've decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don't plan to leave it there for long."

OK, so they are going to back off a bit, think hard about it, and hopefully come to a rational compromise that protects their interests and their customers interests. Just watch what happens now, though - many Facebookers will immediately delete their creative notes, their photos, etc. that they don't want published by Facebook.

The current Terms of Use (9:30 a.m. PST on 2/18/09) says (in part):

"When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content."

Customer ire is a powerful thing - this could have been a fatal strike to the Facebook solar plexus, especially if the "next greatest social viral collaborative network platform" is just around the corner. Who knows?

1 comment:

Patti Hobbs said...

I'm too much of a control freak I guess. I like having my own paid web space and being able to do whatever I want. My son, who was in Europe last summer, was chagrined to find that he was unable to download the originals (without paying) for all the photos he'd uploaded to Flik'r (or some other service) while he was traveling around Europe.