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What Happens In Public On Facebook Is Owned By Facebook

Facebook who owns your stuffWith annoying regularity a post infects Facebook which starts something like this:

Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information; I state as of Tuesday, September 29 2015 at 12:19, in response to the new guidelines of Facebook, pursuant to articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, 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. [Full text at the end of this post]

Facebook has officially debunked it (throwing in a reference to promotional material for the forthcoming movie “The Martian”):

https://www.facebook.com/facebook/posts/10154095097461729?fref=nf

And pretty much every major news outlet, from the New York Times to Good Morning America is running the same debunking.

But Facebook isn’t exactly “free” and here’s what you should know.

If you’re a private individual and consume content on Facebook and post little or nothing beyond pictures and statuses of interest to close family and friends then you are a product being sold to companies who advertise on Facebook.

The amount of time you spend looking at Facebook is directly proportional to how much you are worth and how much money Facebook makes from you. Facebook is giving you a very cool set of tools for keeping up with friends, and in return you’re paying for it by looking at the adverts they show you. If you click on adverts, you’re allowing Facebook to make a little more money.

If you’re posting a lot of content, you’re additionally helping Facebook make money by attracting and holding the attention of those who are looking at what you post. Facebook is showing adverts around your content and making money. You don’t have to pay Facebook to host your pictures because they’ve found that making money via advertising and selling your information is more lucrative than charging most users $10 per month. Conversely Facebook is not paying you directly for your content, they’re giving you hosting and promotional tools for free.

None of this is particularly dishonest, if you understand how it works and are happy with the trade. It’s also why you, the regular users of Facebook, do not have support numbers to call or any kind of customer service from Facebook. You’re not the customers, you’re the product.

A little up the chain come people like all of us here at Israellycool for the work we do toward this blog. Israellycool trades some part of every post our tremendous team writes for the chance to attract an audience to our blog. Dave specifically collects a little money when people come to our blog (from the adverts around the page) and that goes to pay for hosting and stuff. To keep those numbers growing we appeal to Facebook’s enormous potential audience.

We post a link to each of our stories, and Facebook shows that to some number of people (including the picture we post). Facebook typically shows it to ten times more people than we get coming to our page. Facebook makes money every time they show our post to people (they’ve got your attention, you’re looking at your news feed): we make money on the 1/10th who click through. Often Facebook asks us (as administrators of Israellycool’s Facebook page) to “boost” a post and show it to more people. Once upon a time every post we made was shown to everybody who’d “liked” our page and more beyond. Those days are gone. To appear in the newsfeeds of more people, Facebook asks us to pay.

So who are the real customers of Facebook? Today those are anybody who pays to boost posts or advertise on Facebook. And Facebook is very good at making money from those people.

There’s one other very important consequence of posting on Facebook, especially with the visibility set to Public: embedding. This also applies to Twitter by the way. The two most relevant terms from Facebook’s Terms and Conditions are:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

1- 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.

….

4- When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).

Embedding is the process whereby anyone on the web can take a PUBLIC Facebook post and “embed” it on their web page. I’ve done it up above with Facebook’s official post about this hoax copyright notice. I can do it with Tweets and most YouTube videos and a myriad of other web-content too.

As soon as I embed a Facebook post on my page, my publishing relationship is with Facebook, not the author of the post. I’m free to embed ANY public Facebook content on my page and there is NOTHING the original owner can say. The original owner loses almost all control of his content the second he presses post with a public audience. I say almost: the author can do one thing: they can delete the original public post. Then it will disappear from my page.

A real world example: the photographer who took this photograph of Jeremy Corbyn at the Quds Day anti-Israel rally in the UK with a Hezbollah flag behind him, has tried to control the use of his image. Here’s the image that Samuel Hardy (the photographer who took it) specifically doesn’t want me to use on my blog which is critical of Jeremy Corbyn (who he is a fan of).

https://www.facebook.com/photofoxsam/posts/994359273961251

Here’s what happened: he sold his image to the UK newspaper The Independent. He chose not to sell it to an Israeli paper and website (Ynet). But because he allowed The Independent to use that image on a public Facebook post, I can embed it wherever I like.

So when Facebook says “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared” the only tool they’re giving you is whether you set something to Public or not. As soon as it’s public it’s embeddable and as soon as that happens you’ve lost your content. Facebook do not even tell you how many times your content was embedded or where. Each embed (as far as Facebook is concerned) is like advertising for Facebook on other pages, their hope is to suck people back in to Facebook.

Also note, “embedding” isn’t mentioned directly in their terms and conditions page. It’s just an unwritten consequence of sharing something publicly.

I’m not passing judgment on any of this: I don’t think it’s particularly deceptive, but it does seem, especially when people repeatedly share this kind of hoax information, that very few people understand their own relationship with Facebook.

Appendix A:

Full text of the current fake Facebook copyright post:

Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information; I state as of Tuesday, September 29 2015 at 12:19, in response to the new guidelines of Facebook, pursuant to articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, 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.

Those who read this text can do a copy/paste on their Facebook wall. This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright. By this statement, I tell Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, broadcast, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and or its content. The actions mentioned above also apply to employees, students, agents and or other personnel under the direction ofFacebook.
The content of my profile contains private information. The violation of my privacy is punishable by law (UCC 1-308 1-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are invited to publish a notice of this kind, or if they prefer, you can copy and paste this version. Better to be safe and do it now than to have regrets and suffer consequences later. Remember ignorance to the law is not a valid excuse.

About the author

Picture of Brian of London

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.
Picture of Brian of London

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.
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