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In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare… Copyright Protection Statement HOAX

Summary. You’ve undoubtedly noticed the wide-spread of a posting on Facebook of a statement purported to protect the copyright of all your photos, writings, and other intellectual property you post on Facebook.

The basic point of law that this declaration fails to recognize is that one who has entered into a contract (in this case with Facebook) cannot modify that contract unilaterally unless the other party (Facebook) agrees to the modification. This would be like sending your landlord a letter stating, “I hereby declare my rent is $100 lower.” Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Facebook User Agreement. If you don’t like the user agreement that Facebook offers, your only remedy is to cancel your membership. They don’t have a legal team standing by to negotiate individual user contracts. This is the same with any other huge software or online company. You simply take the contract they offer or choose not to use it.

Protecting Your Creative Content. For those people who obtain your photos and writings directly from Facebook, you may want your own copyright intentions to be known — not to protect you from Facebook, but from people who may unwittingly be copying and reposting your content without attribution. In this regard, it actually is helpful to have a copyright statement on your own personal blog or website. Everyone has unique desires regarding how they want their works to be copied and redistributed (for free, for pay, unchanged, changed, etc.). The website CreativeCommons.org has a simple copyright guidelines creator that’s easy to follow and allows you to link to an existing generic copyright statement that meets your own personal desires. It’s easiest to include your website or blog address embedded in all photos and included in all writings you post. Then, on your website, you can state your copyright intentions. Our own copyright statement is not very restrictive, but offers an example of what you could use on your own blog or website.

What Facebook Really Says. Regarding Intellectual Property (IP), the Facebook terms of use (user agreement) states in stipulation 2.1 “Sharing Your Content and Information” the following:

“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.”

You Own Your Facebook Content. This statement is proceeded by the declaration that, “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook.” Facebook isn’t trying to take ownership of your content. Facebook is protecting themselves by simply creating a legal agreement with you so they can host/publish your content without you subsequently taking legal action against them stating that your content added value to Facebook and you want to be compensated financially.

Copyright Protection Statement Hoax. Given the widespread circulation of the statement below, and the fact that whoever wrote it seems to be well versed in copyright law, it seems the statement was intentionally written to be a viral hoax. Here is the statement that is most recently being reposted on Facebook.

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional 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.

* Note: The original statement being copied and pasted refers to the Berner Convention as shown above. It’s actually supposed to be Berne Convention.

Snopes Report. The Snopes report about this Facebook hoax states:

These claims about protecting your copyright or privacy rights on Facebook by posting a particular legal notice to your wall is similar to an item which circulated several years ago positing that posting a similar notice on a web site would protect that site’s operators from prosecution for piracy. In both cases the claims were erroneous, an expression of the mistaken belief that the use of some simple legal talisman — knowing enough to ask the right question or post a pertinent disclaimer — will immunize one from some undesirable legal consequence. The law just doesn’t work that way.

Facebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their Facebook accounts nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted by Facebook simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls. Moreover, the fact that Facebook is now a publicly traded company (i.e., a company that has issued stocks which are traded on the open market) or a “capital entity” has nothing to do with copyright protection or privacy rights. Any copyright or privacy agreements users of Facebook have entered into with that company prior to its becoming a publicly traded company or changing its policies remain in effect: they are neither diminished nor enhanced by Facebook’s public status.

Before you can use Facebook, you must indicate your acceptance of that social network’s legal terms, which includes its privacy policy and its terms and policies. You cannot alter your acceptance of that agreement, nor can you restrict the rights of entities who are not parties to that agreement, simply by posting a notice to your Facebook account or citing the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) or the Berne Convention.

One of the common legal talismans referenced above is UCC Section 1-308, which has long been popular among conspiracy buffs who [incorrectly] maintain that citing it above your signature on an instrument will confer upon you the ability to invoke extraordinary legal rights.

Consumers Union Statement. Consumers Union posted an announcement on their Facebook page about this hoax (see below). Presumably, seeing that the topic was trending (seeing increased interest among people online), they wanted to ride the wave of website traffic created by public interest in this issue. Unfortunately, their video misses the point and addresses privacy issues rather than the copyright worries that people are primarily concerned about. The video will still be useful for those concerned about keeping their photos and posts private.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com