In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Facebook wants your photos

Just when you think you have a handle on things, something comes along and demonstrates you really have no idea. You know I wouldn’t be mentioning this if it hadn’t happened to me. Recall the August entry in which I was troubled at how people will sometime use one’s photos without asking or giving credit. I decided to stop posting photos of parties and get-togethers online and instead make prints and show people when I see them.

The part about making prints isn’t working out. It’s an effort I seem unwilling to make. On the other hand, I picked up an iPod Touch, which is an ideal means to show photos. I reversed my decision, thinking I just ought to start posting images in my on-line album again. Shutting down this line of thought was a post by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner revealing something I should have already known. It quoted a passage from the terms of use document of an unnamed social networking site. My photos were being used without permission or credit on Facebook so I had a look at their Terms of Use document. I was amused to see Facebook was indeed the quoted unnamed social networking site:

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

Pretty bleak, isn’t it? You post something, and you allow them to use it for free, in perpetuity. Even further, they can take your material and licence it to others, perhaps for a fee. A fee you will never share in, undoubtedly. The strange part is the very next sentence:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

So on one hand, as soon as you post content, you’re giving Facebook an “irrevocable, perpetual” licence to use it, but then they claim that if you delete your content from the site, this irrevocable, perpetual licence is revoked and ended. So which is it?

Also interesting is a sentence appearing earlier in the same paragraph:

You may not post, transmit, or share User Content on the Site or Service that you did not create or that you do not have permission to post.

I’m curious what Facebook would do if they used an image posted by someone who did not create it or have permission to use it.

My reading of their terms tell me that by giving my friends permission to post my photographs, I am indirectly giving Facebook licence to use them in any way they want, for free. Yea, I don’t think I’m willing to do this. I’m no Yousuf Karsh, but I find it incredibly annoying that a company more than able to compensate the owner of an image for its commercial use prefers to word its legal agreement to allow it to take any images it wants for free. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that to retain control of my images, I will have to be far more careful in how I use them.




Facebook double-talk


  1. Rachel

    So that is why you removed your picture on Facebook. It kind of sucks having to be that careful about your photographs. I have a few photos on mine that I should probably remove now.

  2. Bradley

    Have you thought about putting a visible watermark on all the pictures you post? You can’t prevent people from borrowing, but at least everyone would know where it came from!

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