Facebook Goes Open Source–With Its TOS
After what can only be termed a kerfuffle last week over changes to its Terms of Service, Facebook has decided to take some pretty drastic steps to address the issue of content ownership on the social networking site: they’re soliciting input from their users.
Asking for user feedback? Revolutionary, I know—but when it comes to setting the legal policies for one of the most popular sites in the world, somehow I don’t think direct democracy is the best way to determine IP rights. (Okay, I’m sure they’re not going the direct democracy route. Who does these days—I mean, really? Even Digg isn’t really democratic anymore.)
Yes, rather than letting their users directly write and/or edit their Terms of Service (Wiki-style FTW!), Facebook is encouraging its users to comment on a set of guiding principles they will use to shape specific language and policies in the future. The proposed Facebook Principles and Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (woot for recognizing that rights come with responsibilities!) are now available for comment from users until March 29.
So why all the fuss? Facebook made a change to its TOS this month indicating that members couldn’t revoke the license they grant to Facebook to use their content even when they delete their account. People didn’t like it. People didn’t like it so much they couldn’t shut up about how they didn’t consent to the change, and how they were leaving the site because of it. Facebook took it back, so it should be over, right?
Not so much—and not everyone (okay, it looks like almost no one) is impressed by FB’s efforts. I like what Stacy D. Kramer of paidContent had to say about it, that Facebook is opening this up:
in the apparent hope of either coming to a group decision or giving users enough of a chance to make themselves heard that they’ll feel like they participated even if it doesn’t go their way.
Read Write Web, on the other hand, says “Facebook’s management has lost its grip on reality” and this effort shows their relationship with their users is “delusional.” Meanwhile, Econsultancy says Facebook needs “common sense, not democracy.”
Though she didn’t bother to hide her boredom with the conference call, BoomTown’s Kara Swisher said that it was “like being at the Constitutional Convention, except for geeks,” with their calls of transparency and openness. (Um, kind of, except the opposite. Attendees at the Convention were sworn to secrecy during proceedings. Transparency, not so much. But you get the intended analogy, I’m sure.)
I’m guessing this effort is direct evidence that Facebook is looking to replace this clause with a less-offensive one designed to grant the same right in perpetuity, but this time, they’ll be able to point directly at these efforts and say that they asked members for their input. The most vocal critics are likely to comment on the Principles and Statement.
How much do you think Facebook will be able to give their critics if they want/claim to need this right?