Thursday, February 19, 2009

Before I start, I want to mention that I have been working on this post for several weeks, before this hit the news. Also, I must make it clear that I am not a lawyer and thus cannot give legal advice. All I am doing is explaining what I do and why. I think by the end you will see how clear it is. You can also read Facebook's terms and conditions for yourself.

Some of you may have noticed that I don't post many photos to Facebook, and here's why: Facebook steals them from you. That's right! When you upload a photo, they force you to check a box saying that you agree to their terms. When you check that box and upload your photos, you are telling Facebook that they can do whatever they want with your images.

The Source:
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.

When you post anything on Facebook, be that a message to your friend or your latest image, you give them the rights to do pretty much whatever they want with it. This includes selling it, putting it on billboards, or using it in commercials. This also includes changing it. This can be done by using the "excerpt" clause. They can choose to get rid of the "NOT" in your message. "To prepare derivative works" pretty much includes any kind of change both you or Facebook can think of...

That picture of you kissing your boyfriend (now ex)? Yup... Got you there! That could be the new Facebook billboard on your way to school. That picture of you in your bikini on the beach? Yup, they can print those up and sell them to creepers in Kentucky...

Stories for Photographers:
That image you're working on licensing to a company? Well that company saw it was on Facebook, contacted them and bought it from them for half the price... You don't get a thing. Or they can take that image and place it on the front page for everyone visiting Facebook to see. They make money because of it, and you don't see a penny. Those hours you spent taking the picture and tweaking it on your computer? That darn "derivatives" clause allows them to change it to look how ever they want!

What can you do?
If you've made it this far, hopefully you're asking what you can do about it. Well, don't post things that your not "ok" with giving to Facebook. There are alternatives! Flickr is one of them, you can post them to Flickr instead. You say you still want your Facebook friends to see them? Well they can; you can use the "import" feature on your Wall. It automatically puts a small image with a link to the Flickr image right there on your Wall!

Already posted things to Facebook?
It's not too late! In the Facebook terms and conditions it says:

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.

Basically, if you delete it, they loose the rights!

Since the time of originally writing this, Facebook has removed this section from their terms of service, so once you post something they could use it for life. Lucky, due the mass of people who were upset with this change, the put the old Terms of Service back. They also made it very clear that this reverting back to the old Terms of Service is temporary. What this means, is that you should delete your stuff while you still have the chance.

In Conclusion:
Has Facebook done any of this? Honestly, I don't know. Will they? Once again, I don't know. I do know that they can, and within the last few days, they have made significant steps to get more rights. Why would they spend the time and money on lawyers to write this garbage into the terms and conditions if they had no intention of using it? It's your choice, but I know I keep my work away from Facebook for now. I like Facebook, and I want to get the word out about this because I want Facebook to change so I can post my photos again!


Lucas.Carter said...

this is huge. i'm so glad you told me about this a while back especially since i'm professionally shooting on assignment. It's ridiculous what they threw into the fine print's disgusting and saddening..

A. Moore Photography said...

Its so true. You always need to read all the fine print on a website before you post anything.


Anonymous said...

It's definitely worth checking out, but over on Facebook there's a group that clarifies some of the in question aspects of the EULA. Facebook Bill of Rights

A. Moore Photography said...

@jlhuge - I have checked out that Facebook group, and I am a member. Unfortunately, most of the content there falls into one of two categories: P.R. speak to justify the terms, and the rest is just uninformed people blabbering on. The unfortunate part is that neither correctly addresses what facebook is legally allowed to do by what is stated in the terms and conditions.