Friday, January 21, 2011

Who Owns Your Status Updates?

Years ago (it was 1994 to be exact), I purchased a book at the Harvard Coop Bookstore, Who Owns Information? by Anne Wells Branscomb. I was determined to digest the contents of the book and become an expert in the then-emerging field of internet privacy. Sadly, I never made it through the book but it still looks impressive sitting on my office bookshelf.

I was reminded of this the other day when a potential client asked me who owns the information she posts on Facebook. I have to admit that is a question I had not given much thought to, but like everyone else, I had heard all sorts of rumors about Facebook and privacy issues. So I did what they taught us in law school. I looked it up. It seems the answer is clearly posted on Facebook’s site:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

1. 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.

There is a lot more interesting information in this section under the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” and it is well worth reading. Thus we can be assured that Mark Zuckerberg does not own your vacation photos, “likes” and i-Pod lists. At least for now.

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