I am not so good at leaving things be. The blatant contradiction in the legal language of the Facebook terms of use bugs me. Everything in the terms of use is about protecting themselves and leaving us out in the cold. It asserts their rights and leaves is very few. It details our responsibilities and denies any on their part. In other words, it’s a typical contract between the average person and an organization large enough to have a legal department.

So I wrote and asked about the contradiction.

The section of your terms of use document about user submitted material is self-contradictory. It is stated that uploading content grants “to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license”

In the next sentence, you state that if the user deletes the content, “the license granted above will automatically expire”.

How can an irrevocable, perpetual licence expire? So which is it? Irrevocable and perpetual? Or only applicable as long as the content on your site?

Clive from Facebook replied surprisingly quickly. It’s not because he was falling all over himself with a clear and concise answer, I assure you.

We appreciate your concern for this matter. Please note that it is highly unlikely that Facebook will ever use any material that you have uploaded to the site. It is even more unlikely that we would use this material or license this material for the financial gain of Facebook. For legal reasons, we must keep the following clause in our Terms of Use to protect ourselves from possible litigation:

At this point in his response, Clive quotes the same terms of use section I quoted earlier in this entry. He then continues.

Additionally, all users retain the copyright for any information they post on the site and all users must obey all applicable copyright laws in any use of the information on the site, including in downloading or printing any materials.

I hope that this clarified any questions you may have had regarding material that you post on Facebook. Be sure to let us know if you have any additional concerns.

His answer (and I use the term loosely) offers no clarity at all. Of course it’s unlikely they’ll use any given photo. Given the volume of material posted, they couldn’t begin to use everything. But the point is that they could at any time. ‘Unlikely’ is a far cry from ‘no chance’ which is why the clause appears in the document. They’re leaving the door open.

Also, the copyright issue is a dodge. If the copyright holder gives them perpetual licence to use any posted material in any way they want, they don’t need to acquire copyright ownership of the material.

I’d hoped they would treat me with some respect and answer the damned question. How silly of me.