All of a sudden, for some unknown reason (maybe THIS story!) there is an avalanche of Facebook users posting this language, or the equivalent:
PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile. You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.
The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law.
UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
But oh so wrong in every way.
After I saw the third version of this turn up and was left scratching my head wondering who was circulating ridiculous legal advice to all my Facebook friends, I discovered that just yesterday, the Snopes site eviscerated this language and the logic behind it. You can and should read their thorough treatment here, but I’ll summarize:
1. Facebook doesn’t “own” what you place on your site. Nothing they have ever said or published suggests this.
2. Facebook users essentially waive most of their copyrights when they agree to Facebook’s user terms. They state that while you still own what you post, Facebook can USE what you post to its little cyber-heart’s content, and also all of its users can do likewise.
3. You can’t make a deal with valid terms—I get to use Facebook, Facebook gets to use what I post there—and then change the agreement, unilaterally, just by saying so. Really now: who does this? What would you do if the bank suddenly contacted you and said, “You know that interest we said you’d get? We changed our minds—you don’t get a penny. See? We published a legal looking disclaimer, so that’s that!”
4. Whether Facebook is publicly traded is 100% irrelevant to anything.
5. Facebook CAN change the conditions of the deal…because that option was part of the agreement you approved in the beginning.
“If you do not agree with Facebook’s stated policies, you have several options:
- Decline to sign up for a Facebook account.
- Bilaterally negotiate a modified policy with Facebook. [ Good luck with THAT!!!]
- Lobby for Facebook to amend its policies through its Facebook Site Governance section.
- Cancel your Facebook account.”
There are two ethics principles related to this issue. The first is to make sure you are right and informed before you spread official-looking nonsense about the law. People believe these erroneous posts and rely on them, to their sorrow. This is like telling friends to use ginger ale as sunblock, that they aren’t lying if they cross your fingers behind your back, or that life is fair and good triumphs in the end.
The second principle is this: Don’t take a personal photo or video from someone’s Facebook page and use it without permission! I don’t care that it’s legal—don’t do that! Where is your Golden Rule alarm? If you look at a photo, video or a post and think, wow, that would embarrass me if it was circulated widely—why would you circulate it?
Artwork, original graphics…I’m sorry: if a Facebook user posts these, they are legally and ethically in the fair use category, and there is a legitimate presumption that they are being shared with the world intentionally. Give credit for them, by all means, but they are there to use. But the ethical presumption with family photos, photos of children and anything that might embarrass someone should be that the Facebook user made a mistake. Don’t repost photos or videos that will get people fired, or send them into seclusion, or haunt them until the day they die. Use your head, as well as your heart.
Building an ethical culture on Facebook will provide some protection for your Facebook content. Pseudo legal nonsense?
None at all.
Pointer: Tel Monks