It was bad enough with all the apps and the winks and the intrusive nonsense that greeted you every time you logged on, but this was the last straw. Facebook, showing how smug and contemptuous they are of community, now wants to seize the rights of anything you create and happen to distribute through their networks, by changing the Terms of Service to suit their avaricious purposes. I never agreed to these Terms of Service, and chances are that neither did you. For the record, I sure as hell do not grant Facebook any right to store archived copies of any content imported form my blog, and if these boneheads even try to use my content, they will face severe legal ramifications. And it won’t be limited to arbitration. Because I never agreed to the new terms of service. And nothing in the OLD terms of service indicated an automatic update to the NEW terms of service.
So I’ve deleted my account. If you want to delete yours, the magic link is here.
Nothing that I create will ever be distributed on Facebook again. If you want to contact me, you can get me on Twitter or email.
I would advise any writers, artists, and photographers to remove their content posthaste, and not give Facebook the right to profit on your hard labor. Creative Commons and community is the solution. Not autocratic assignation of rights.
UPDATE: J.F. Quackenbush has put up a post in relation to this, suggesting a certain hypocrisy among those who are up in arms about Facebook’s decision. (In Quackenbush’s view, since we have no problem copying a picture, we should, in theory, have no problem giving up our content.) He also calls out Chris Walters for failing to contact a Facebook representative is lousy journalism. Ordinarily, I would agree with him on the second point. But in this case (and unlike the Washington Post Book World/NBCC contretemps), we have very specific language in the TOS to work from and interpret.
To respond to Quackenbush, what’s not to suggest that Facebook wouldn’t do precisely what Eric Bauman did? Bauman, as you recall, took the content that other people created, hosted it on eBaum’s World, and profited without distributing the money back to the people who created it. This was the scummiest of business practices, running counter to the open distribution of content — that is, if we can all accept the ideal model for rights and sharing to be some optimally tuned Creative Commons license. When you upload a YouTube video and it becomes a hit, Google (most of the time) ensures that the content producer is involved with revenue. And Google, to its credit, amended the Chrome EULA when there was public concern about content rights.
But the Facebook language clearly dictates that you are giving Facebook an irrevocable and perpetual right to distribute and make derivative copies of content you upload to Facebook for any purpose. ANY. Whether it be a book, a film, or whatever other options Facebook may have cooked up. Recall Alison Chang, who saw her Flickr photo turned into a Virgin Mobile advertisement without her consent. I certainly don’t want my likeness being used for advertising “for any purpose” without my consent. And that’s precisely what I’m giving up under the Facebook “license.” Granted, my interpretation here assumes that “on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof” will be interpreted fairly broadly. (And actually, the trickiest bit in the paragraph is the final sentence, which conflicts with the previous sentence. If you’ve already granted Facebook the irrevocable right to give up your content and likeness, then how can you still have “all rights and permissions?” Perhaps an IP attorney can sort out this thorny language.) Since Facebook has demonstrated no reservations in sharing private data with developers, the company’s history suggests that this same recurring invasion of privacy will carry forth under the new Terms of Service. The only difference is that Facebook now intends to profit from the content you upload, and they can now use it in any way they want, because you’ve capitulated all your rights to it.
UPDATE 2: The Photo Attorney thinks the new Terms of Service are bunk. And Dhananjay Nene explains why he deleted his data. MediaVidea conjures up some sordid possibilities for what Facebook will do under the new TOS.
Mashable: “Until now, users had options with regards to how the data they generated on Facebook was used. Now, they have no options whatsoever, rather than quit the service altogether. It’s a major difference; I’m not going to take it lightly, and neither should you.”
Meanwhile, Andy on the Road compares Facebook and YouTube’s respective Terms of Services. When you delete a YouTube video, YouTube does not have any control over the data. The license ends. And it’s also worth noting that Twitter’s Terms of Service maintain a what’s yours is yours policy.
UPDATE 3: Amanda French compares Facebook’s TOS against other social networks. The results, in the words of Ms. French, are “extraordinarily grabby and arrogant.” Facebook has responded, claiming, “We certainly did not — and did not intend — to create any new right or interest for Facebook in users’ data by issuing the new Terms. None of the news or blog reports at the time we announced them on February 4 suggested any confusion or misunderstanding.” On the contrary, the current Terms of Service spell out Facebook’s intentions quite clearly. If Facebook genuinely was not interested in “confusion or misunderstanding,” then why didn’t they inform the users of the ToS change? This is insulting corporate boilerplate from an arrogant organization that truly believes its users are idiots. Boycott Facebook!
UPDATE 4: To clarify my stance for the FOX News crowd (you know, you could have contacted me), my quibbles are with both versions of the blanket license. But the newer one is especially diabolical because of the manner in which it abrogates rights to content that you have deleted without informing the user. As abundantly proven by Ms. French above, none of the other social networks do this.
UPDATE 5: More spin control from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in which he claims that Facebook’s philosophy is predicated on people owning their information and content. Alas, like the Facebook spokesman cited in the Standard article in Update 3, Zuckerberg does little to mollify the salient issue. You can have all the philosophy in the world, but it’s the language that exists in the terms that matters the most. Zuckerberg promises that “over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler.” He may want to think about speeding up that time window, because, according to Brian Stelter
UPDATE 6: Facebook has revised its TOS back due to public outcry.
© 2009, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.