Maybe it's because I'm a professional social media manager or maybe it's just because I find chain-letter posts incredibly annoying, but I often find myself playing the role of mythbuster on some friends' Facebook posts. One chain-letter type post stands out as a particularly frustrating repeat offender: copyright disclaimers. In this post, I will explain this myth and how you can help keep it from spreading.
(Disclaimer: While I am a social media consultant, I am not a lawyer and this post should not be construed as legal advice.)
Myth: By copying and pasting a legal-sounding disclaimer from a friend's post, you can claim and maintain copyright to your content. Here's one example (via Snopes):
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).
For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!
(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws, By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook's direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law(UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).
Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.
Mythbusting Proof: Here's the relevant excerpt from Facebook's terms that disproves this myth.
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). 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.
Why It's Bad: This type of post is harmful because it leads users to believe that by posting a privacy disclaimer they automatically have some right to the content they share on Facebook, which is absolutely incorrect. As much as it might bother you, by agreeing to Facebook's terms and conditions (which you do by using or even just logging into the site,) you automatically waive all rights to your content. Spreading this myth is particularly harmful to artists or others for whom copyright is literally valuable. Leading people who make money off of their content to believe that posting a disclaimer once gives them copyright can lead to financial consequences if their content is then used without their knowledge or consent and without generating royalties for them. An example might be a photographer who uploads an image to Facebook, thinking that because they posted this disclaimer, they maintain the copyright. Under Facebook's terms, Facebook can use the image on ads and elsewhere, or transfer rights to another entity, without paying the photographer any royalties or even giving credit. Knowing that Facebook has the rights to any content they upload might prevent the photographer from uploading valuable content. The more we can educate ourselves about Facebook's terms of service, the more careful we can be about what we share.
Do This Instead: If you are truly concerned about maintaining control of your content, delete your Facebook account and track down any content shared by your friends, or anyone else, and ask them to remove it from Facebook. If you, like me, can't imagine life without a Facebook account and you see a version of the copyright disclaimer in your Timeline, you can stop its spread by pointing out that it is a myth. Often simply posting a link to Snopes works just fine. And finally, the most important step you can take in being a Facebook mythbuster is to read Facebook's terms, a.k.a the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. If you're going to be a user of a site that owns your content copyright, you might as well be an informed user.