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Every few months, a message starts circulating around Facebook. It reads like legalese, and claims you need to post it to your timeline to stop the social network from stealing your copyrights or intellectual property. Ignore any such post, it’s an age-old Internet hoax 5 Internet Hoaxes That Went Viral & Almost Had You Fooled This Year 5 Internet Hoaxes That Went Viral & Almost Had You Fooled This Year There were a few convincing hoaxes knocking about the Internet this year; from waterproof iPhones to Christmas Dinner in a tin. Here are some of the best. Read More . But you should know that Facebook actually can use your photos if it wants to.

There are two messages going viral right now. One of them looks something like an old hoax New Facebook Hoax Spreading Like Wildfire [Updates] New Facebook Hoax Spreading Like Wildfire [Updates] There is a new hoax making its way around Facebook, and there is a good chance you have already seen it. The post implores Facebook users to repost it by midnight to avoid Facebook's new... Read More :

Now it’s official! It is published in the media. Facebook has just released this entry price: $5.99 to keep the subscription gold of your status of life “private”. If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free (I said paste, not share) if not, tomorrow all your posts can become public.

If you see that, just don’t bother with it. Facebook itself has said it’s a hoax, and that the social network is completely free and intends to be free forever.

facebook-scrabble

The other hoax message has been around for a really long time, and its text reads like:

As of <date and time>, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents…

This message has been debunked so many times now that it’s even stopped being funny. Look, it has zero, zip, zilch, nada legal legs. Posting a random message does not change the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed up for Facebook. If you don’t like those terms and conditions, tough, delete your Facebook account. And among those terms and conditions, you agreed to let Facebook use your profile picture and photos.

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Wait, Facebook Owns My Photos?

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No, it doesn’t. “Owns” indicates copyright, and you still retain all copyrights for that photo. Essentially, Facebook, or anyone else on Facebook, cannot sell a photo that you posted and own the copyright of.

However, Facebook’s Terms and Conditions make it clear that you are giving it the permission to reuse any photo or status you publish, or your profile picture:

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.

In simple words, this means that if you are using Facebook, you have agreed to let the social networking giant reuse your status and photos. You still own the copyrights to those, but you have given Facebook permission to reuse them without being sued.

In fact, when it comes to privacy of photos and videos Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About Read More , Facebook can even transfer or sub-license those to someone else, according to The Telegraph.

And no, that “U.C.C. 1-308” law does not protect you or punish Facebook either. The above user agreement is what matters if you try to go to court. You agreed to it to use Facebook; if you don’t like it, go somewhere else (and maybe stop Google+ from its slow death Google's Plus: The Latest in Long Line of Social Flops Google's Plus: The Latest in Long Line of Social Flops Google's history of launching social network is a series of failures. Read More ).

Pasting a Message Doesn’t Make It Illegal

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There is not a single lawyer out there who says that copy-pasting that message to your timeline changes the above agreement from Facebook’s Terms and Conditions.

“You can’t unilaterally modify a contract that you’ve entered into,” intellectual property lawyer Tim Bukher told Quartz. So Facebook is free to reuse your images in ads or other places. However, the likelihood of it doing that is low, according to Bukher.

Publicly traded companies have to be careful about user backlash, which can affect their stock price and investor confidence. There is a significant gap between what Facebook can do and what it will do.

What You Can or Should Do

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If you absolutely, completely want to guarantee that Facebook does not reuse any of the photos or videos you have uploaded, there’s only one option: you need to delete everything and quit Facebook.

That option isn’t going to be practical for most people, so the better option is to understand your privacy settings. For starters, run Facebook’s Privacy Check-up Tool Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Facebook has a privacy problem. It's no secret. You hear stories about that every other day. So to help users understand their settings better, Facebook has released a new tool called Privacy Check-up. Read More and pay attention to everything in it. And then clean up everything else Cleaning Up Your Facebook Profile: What The New Facebook Cleanup Tool Won't Do [Weekly Facebook Tips] Cleaning Up Your Facebook Profile: What The New Facebook Cleanup Tool Won't Do [Weekly Facebook Tips] Facebook's Privacy Cleanup tool has triggered a massive push in profile cleanups, which is great, however some people are following up with a cleanup trend and not liking the results too much. Read More .

For a more comprehensive understanding, check out our complete guide to Facebook’s privacy settings Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings - A Complete Guide Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings - A Complete Guide Facebook also means two other things: frequent changes and privacy concerns. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook, is that they’re not really concerned about what we like or our privacy. Nor should they... Read More .

Most importantly, here’s what you need to know: Apart from deleting your account or negotiating with Facebook personally for a different contract, there really is nothing you can do to stop Facebook from using your photos and videos if it wants to. You agreed to it already. A silly little status update doesn’t change that.

In summary:

Is Facebook Wrong?

The question, at the end of the day, isn’t whether that hoax is true or false. It’s whether Facebook’s policy is so bad that this hoax appeals to so many of its users who want those terms and conditions to be changed.

Do you think Facebook is wrong, or should people just quit complaining and move on?

Image credits: geralt / Pixabay, bykst / Pixabay, geralt (2) / Pixabay, geralt (3) / Pixabay, FirmBee / Pixabay, Simon / Pixabay

  1. Theodore Wells
    January 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    what if you link to your content on another service when you post on FB and don't store your pics there? but only link to them.

  2. Ben Stutts
    October 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Did you really think Zukerburg made billions by giving away a free service? You pay with your private information that you willingly give. And the same people are up in arms over the NSA collecting mostly the exact same data. The big difference is NSA isn't going to sell it to scammers and advertisers like FB does.

    Way back in 1979 one of my instructors in a university computer science course told us to never ever put anything on a computer that you don't want everyone to know. This was long before the internet existed and even longer before FaceBook. He had some examples of stuff that users had put on computers that had come back to byte them. I have always tried to follow his advice, but in todays computer centric world that just is not possible. However, I did read the FB TOS when it first started. And have refused to participate because it essentially said if you post anything on the site - they, not you , own it and can do with it as they please. You agreed to this. That includes selling your data including your pictures and anything else you put there, to anyone that is willing to pay for that information.

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