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The Latest Facebook Copyright Hoax
By Carlos F. Romero, Inventus Law, Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You may have seen something like this on your Facebook timeline recently:
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, photography, artwork, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos, 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)
It sounds official, and even cites a few Commercial Codes and international treaties. Unfortunately, posting this on your wall does absolutely nothing to prevent your information from being used publically by Facebook.
The hoax is a newer version of the same post that circulated Facebook walls earlier this year when Facebook became a publically traded entity in May. While those posts seemed to imply that there was a change to privacy due to the public offering (which is also blatantly untrue), this new breed of posts continue the spread misinformation by implying that simply declaring your copyright claims adds any extra protection to the underlying works on the page. That is false on its face, and might actually lead to users failing to properly protect their IP online since they believe this post might possess some legal consequence.
To summarize, neither the UCC nor the cited treaties governs private service contracts regarding the use of intellectual property works. In the US copyright protections begin the moment an original expression is captured in a semi-permanent form. This could be anything from the act of snapping a photo with your iPhone to writing a short blog on a topic and saving it to your computer.
When you signed up to use Facebook, and most every other site online, you explicitly agree to the site’s Terms of Service. This is a binding legal document that cannot be superseded by a simple stated declaration. If you wanted to break the Terms you have to delete your account, or, for previous damages, bring a suit. Just saying you are no longer adhered to the contract – even on your wall – does not in of itself absolve the contract. You have to prove that there was no contract, the contract was unfair, or that it was breached upon by the other party.
As such, the governing document for user information, including those you may have claim to copyright of, are the Facebook Terms of Service.
Under the current Terms, Article II: Sharing your Content and Information this is the governing provision the hoax posts are aiming to wiggle out of:
At most, the hoax posts can be used to claim a declaration of copyright ownership to third party users. You would still need to register the mark with the US Copyright officer before being able to bring suit against them to use this as evidence. The post does not change anything under this contractual provision’s with Facebook specifically since you are already contracted with them by accepting their terms and using their site, nor limit Facebook’s right to use photos or other information under the provision. The best way then to protect your IP on Facebook is to simply not post it on your account. If you do post it then you might want to delete it, or at least keep a constant monitor on your privacy and application settings to make sure they are set to “Friends Only” and nothing is set to public.
It is wise to keep up with what’s true and not, as nothing is more dangerous to the loss of rights than misinformation. If you have any questions about your copyright, privacy rights, or use of any material on Facebook please let us know.