Does Posting a Legal Notice on your Facebook Wall Protect Your Copyright and Privacy Rights?

Earlier this year, anyone actively on Facebook probably saw a resurgence of friends posting a copyright/privacy notice on their wall, addressed to Facebook, and attempting to restrict Facebook’s privacy policies as applied to the user. The message, often full of arcane legalese and citations to various statutes, usually ends with a warning that you, as the user’s friend, remain unprotected unless you perpetuate the message by copy/pasting it to your own wall.

Is there any validity to the message, and any reason why you should post it on your wall? To answer that question, we’ll analyze several of the common claims and citations included in these messages.

(Spoiler alert: as humorously detailed in this video, the message is essentially a hoax, utter nonsense, and has no legal effect whatsoever.)

“I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future.”

Facebook’s terms of service state that users “grant [Facebook] a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post.” This is fairly standard language on any social media website. It is binding to all Facebook users, and you cannot modify this “contract” unilaterally by posting a disclaimer on your wall. Coincidently, it is also binding on you regardless whether you’ve read the terms of service or not. If you aren’t comfortable with granting Facebook a license to use your content, you have one option: don’t upload your content on Facebook.

 “I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data, drawings, paintings, photos, video, texts etc. published on my profile and my page. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times. This places me under the protection of copyright.”

Contrary to the apparent public belief, Facebook does not claim any “copyright” or ownership to any of your personal information that you upload. Also, “my rights are attached…” is meaningless legalese in this context. When this verbiage began circulating several years ago, Facebook released a statement clarifying that “anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. . . . That is our policy, and it always has been.” Indeed, the current terms of service state that “[y]ou own all of the content and information you post on Facebook.”

“…Unless you post this message on your wall, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site.”

This is false. To the contrary, the public can only access the content that you don’t protect using Facebook’s privacy controls.

“NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you do not publish this statement at least once you tacitly allowing the use of your photos, as well as information contained in the profile status updates.”

True, Facebook went public on May 18, 2012. This only means, however, that anyone can now buy and sell its shares on a public market exchange; being a public entity doesn’t change anything under applicable privacy laws. Also true: by using Facebook, you have affirmatively (albeit tacitly) agreed to be bound by the website’s terms of service agreement. This “contract” states that you agree to give Facebook a license to all your information that you upload. Think of this as the price of admission.

“The violation of privacy can be punished by law (pursuant to the UCC and Rome Statute).” Or the alternative, a reference to the “Berne Convention.”

Although the “UCC,” “Rome Statute,” and “Berne Convention” are all real laws, they have nothing to do with internet privacy. The “UCC” is short for the “Uniform Commercial Code,” a set of standardized laws that all states have enacted to govern commercial activity. These laws generally deal with the sale of goods, not privacy rights. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted in 1998 and deal with international crimes against humanity, genocide, and the like. Similarly, the Berne convention, though a real law, is inapplicable in this context.

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