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Facebook Terms of Service Switcheroo?

As I was sitting down to a nice comfortable night at home I was alerted via Twitter about a change in theterms-of-service Terms of Service (TOS) at Facebook that could be pretty significant. Since I am not totally aware of the protocol for referencing tweets as sources, I will simply give you the whole deal here so the right people can get their Twitter props:

@Mack Collier: RT @jeremymeyers: RT @NealWiser: Facebook Now OWNS Your Content? http://bit.ly/lEobm Please Re-Tweet (via @perrybelcher)

The source of all of this concern is an article on The Consumerist site. It appears that Facebook has changed its terms to imply that they own your content on your Facebook page in perpetuity whether you have your account open or not. While many of us are not too concerned about that fact because of the nature of the content we put on Facebook there may be some that whose hearts skip a beat or two with this knowledge.

I am not a lawyer and I have never played one on TV and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night so when I did a compare and contrast of the old TOS (from May 2007 which seemed a bit old to me) to the current TOS (February 4, 2009) I could see that there had been some change as reported by the Consumerist. Of course, the entire structure of the terms had been switched around a bit which may have been a tactic to make it harder to detect such a change. I don’t know. Legal things are left to legal people for a reason.

So Facebook may or may not have pulled a fast one. You decide. Here’s the question though. With all of the online services that many readers use daily, from major to obscure ones, how many of you completely read the Terms of Service for everything? For that matter, how many of you look for revisions to these terms? If we are not paying attention are we opening ourselves to this kind of action that can put us at some risk? No matter how we view Facebook’s change it should serve as a warning to be careful where we sign on the dotted line.

Update: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg explains the changes.

  • Øystein

    Legal things have to be left to legal people because these things are supposed to be hard to figure out. Personally I think that Facebook is preparing to sell their outfit, and these altered conditions will sugar the pill for the nigerian scammers who are looking to buy.

    Anyone know of an online service with terms and conditions similar to Facebook?

  • http://buzzmarketingfortech.blogspot.com Paul Dunay

    Actually I was under the impression that this was always the case – that facebook owned all content on its site including yours

    Makes a good case for being sure you like the content you have up there and you set your privacy settings to ensure noone posts content about you without your consent

    Paul Dunay’s last blog post..World Wide Rave – Works!

  • http://www.yojibee.com Anne Kathrine Petteroe

    I have created a group on Facebook against the new TOS.
    Please feel free to join us..
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=77069107432

  • http://www.dan-london.com Dan London

    I really can’t see anyone (aside from the marketing geeks) doing anything different on FB due to the change in terms. The most active users couldn’t care less about the TOC’s.

    Dan London’s last blog post..Create Your Own Book Deal

  • http://buzzmarketingfortech.blogspot.com Paul Dunay

    @ Anne & everyone

    Facebook has had this as a core policy for a while – the new TOS is irrelevant

    I blogged about this in November 2007

    see here – http://buzzmarketingfortech.blogspot.com/2007/11/get-facebook-strategy.html

    * Sure, throwing sheep and poking people is fun, but why not add value to the conversation by posting quality content? (Small side note – if you read the fine print, Facebook owns all content you create on the Facebook site)

    Paul Dunay’s last blog post..World Wide Rave – Works!

  • Jake

    I think people are nuts to be posting their birthdays and other personal information on FB in the first place, if I wanted to steal someone’s identity I would start with Facebook..Anyway, I think now we can all know where the value in FB, as a company, is now…Every `group’ that is joined, e.g., is a direct marketing list FB has – to do with whatever it likes – forever. I could understand FB had rights to the content and could subject us all to some pretty aggressive gorilla advertizing WHILE we’re using their service; but after someone has terminated the service? Why do they get something for nothing?

  • http://www.nealwiser.com Neal Wiser

    Thanks for citing me in your post, I appreciate it!

    Please remember that Facebook is providing a free service. Therefore, in exchange for hosting your data, I can understand they should have Some minimal rights to using it as long as it’s still posted, but Ownership? They have absolutely no moral right to Ownership. But is moral right enough to protect consumers? Unfortunately, it’s not. So if you agreed to the TOS, you’re out of luck.

    The reality is that practically no one reads TOS (except for those fabulous peeps who DO read it and warn us all). Everyone knows this, but Facebook and lots of other companies, are permitted not only to operate this way, but are also allowed to change the TOS without notification. Why? Again; because you agreed to it. It’s buried in the TOS.

    I understand that with millions of users, Facebook needs to protect itself, but their TOS is clearly not user friendly. Indeed, it’s designed to obfuscate the terms so that no one but a lawyer can understand what’s really being agreed to and allow FB to make changes without user recourse.

    Facebook should post a “translation” to their TOS written in easy to understand language. Additionally they should notify their users to changes and give them a set timeframe (2 weeks?) to accept or decline the changes. If they decline, they should at least be offered other types of (perhaps) limited accounts.

    Of course, nothing will change until Facebook is challenged in court by very shrewd lawyers who can convince the court that Facebook is not operating the public’s interest (or something like that).

    btw; if you liked this comment, please follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/nealwiser

    Neal Wiser’s last blog post..Neal Wiser Recognized as an Enlightening Blogger

  • Alex

    I’ve talked with some people this morning who were not aware of the terms of service before this was mentioned again. They’re getting of as user made content does not necessarily belong to all user sites. They want to know does my child’s drawing, my writing (via re-pasted blog posts), my music, etc. now belong to Facebook? Too much of a risk for them to continue.

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  • http://www.velvetblues.com Shirley – Velvet Blues

    Well, I don’t know what this really means for the average Facebook user. But I am glad that I don’t put much on my page and I also never post anything that I wouldn’t want anyone to see.

    Shirley – Velvet Blues’s last blog post..New Domain Name? Use GoDaddy Discount Codes

  • Barry Schnitt

    Mark Zuckerberg has posted to the Facebook blog to try to clarify the issue: http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=54434097130

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  • http://philbrownmusic.com phil brown/musician

    well….
    if that’s true i am done with facebook
    facebooks TOS do not/will not arbritarily super-cede rights to ANY of my copyrights – intellectual property nor aritistic renderings because they say so
    they do not –
    they do not –
    they do not -

  • http://philbrownmusic.com phil brown/musician

    well….
    if that’s true i am done with facebook
    they do not arbritarily super-cede rights to ANY my copyrights -intellectual property nor aritistic renderings because they say so
    they do not –
    they do not –
    they do not -

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  • http://www.tomhcanderson.com Tom H. C. Anderson

    Agree with the reaction to the new TOS, but felt the response by Zuckenberg was good. I posted about it on my blog yesterday, along with some tips for Facebook and other companies who may be involved in managing CGM. We’ve done a lot of work in this area, and these companies need to learn to trust their user community a bit more, if they do they can even be leveraged to keep moderation costs down etc.

    Tom H. C. Anderson
    Managing Partner
    Anderson Analytics, LLC

    Tom H. C. Anderson’s last blog post..Even New Media Companies Should Listen to their Evangelists/Apostles First

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  • http://www.coffeerama.com coffee buzz

    It makes no sense that Facebook would risk messing up a good thing by edging in on people’s intellectual property. They had people’s trust and then they go and risk losing it; not smart.

    coffee buzz’s last blog post..Starbucks Instant Coffee — “Via”

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