On January 1, 2015, Facebook updated its terms and conditions. Specifically, there were some changes regarding your intellectual property rights.

The key portion reads as follows:

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.

At its mildest, this means that any content you post on Facebook, Facebook is allowed to share on your followers’ timelines. Without some sort of license, Facebook is likely worried that displaying your posts on others’ timelines would be misuse of your intellectual property, even though this is exactly what you desire to happen when you post something to Facebook.

What this also means is that Facebook may use your images in Facebook’s advertisements, suggested posts, etc. Does this mean that Facebook will use and sell your works of art? Probably not. Can they? Yes, but it is subject to the same terms. This means that if Facebook were to sell off usage of your content, and you subsequently deleted the content from Facebook, the license that Facebook sold would expire.

Put another way, Facebook can only sell off the maximum amount of what they have, and their rights to use your pictures and videos expires when you delete those pictures and videos. This restricts the marketability of the pictures and videos because the buyer would never know when the content will be deleted.

What about if your content has been shared with others?

The way that the Facebook ‘share’ button works is that you’re creating a reference to your original post. The best analogy is that your post is placed in front of a live video camera. Every person who shares your post will be broadcasting your post. If your post is deleted, the live broadcast of your post is also deleted.

Facebook’s share feature helps protect your intellectual property rights; however, if someone were to copy and paste your post or download your image or video and then post it as their own, you’re not protected through Facebook’s automated delete system. The best thing you can do, if you notice this kind of behavior, is to report the user who copy and pasted or uploaded your materials. If your post, image or video is copyrighted and belongs to you, you should be able to make a strong case to have Facebook take it down. Keep in mind, however, that it is not Facebook that is violating your copyright. It is the user who took your content. Facebook wants to protect all of their users, but in order to do that, they may require proof that the content is yours if there is a question as to ownership.

If you have any questions about your Facebook intellectual property rights, feel free to call us to schedule a consultation at (919) 912-9640 or email us at richard@lawplusplus.com

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