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So What’s the Deal With Facebook?

Written By: Colleen - Feb• 18•09

facebook_termsThe whole Facebook change in Terms of Service (TOS) controversy has been everywhere the last few days.  Basically, the old TOS said that if you closed your Facebook account, you’d retain the rights to any pictures, videos, notes, etc. (basically any original content) that you uploaded onto the site.  The new TOS, which I believe were put into effect on February 4, 2009, indicated that Facebook had the right to use any content uploaded to Facebook however they wanted to because, well, they owned it regardless of any privacy settings.  The only difference between the previous and the new TOS was that Facebook kept it fo’ lyfe.  So even if you closed your Facebook account in protest, the powers that be could, say, still sell a picture of you holding your newborn baby to a diaper company and then collect all the royalties.

I’m not going to repost what it says word for word, mainly because you can Google it, go to Facebook yourself or just find it on the Consumerist – one of my all-time favorite websites – who first “discovered” what was going on.

There was big public outrage and everyone got all pissed and 29 million different Facebook groups were ironically created, blah blah blah.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a blog post to try to calm everyone down but it still didn’t work.  So around midnight last night, Facebook reverted back to the old TOS and the above picture is what we all awoke to see.

There’s just a few interesting things about this whole outrage:

  • Facebook owns your stuff anyway right now; if you want to get your rights back, you have to deactivate your accout.  Was anyone really so surprised to learn this?  Look at the ads for different TV shows or products on the right hand side of your Facebook home page.  On MetroBuzz way back last spring, we made fun of the fact that a fellow podcaster was advertised as a “Grey’s Anatomy Fan” in an attempt to get others to follow suite (She may have been the only “Grey’s Anatomy” fan last spring though hehe).  They were already using your info back then.
  • Honestly, not to sound like I’m making light of the whole thing or being naive, but why would Facebook really want to sublease my pictures of Sara & TJ’s engagement party out to a third party?  Sorry guys, but I don’t think Facebook didn’t change the Terms of Service for US.  My gut tells me that they changed it because more and more celebrities are starting to create Facebook accounts and use them as a big fan attraction nowadays.  Zuckerberg & co. can jerk off to pictures of Facebook Girls Gone Wild while they’re posted on there, same as anyone else can (if they’re not set to private, of course).  And I’m sure that if they had special attachment, there’s always the trusty old screen cap.  No, the new TOS weren’t about us regular people.  They were about Facebook having permanent ownership rights to Lindsay Lohan’s scandalous personal photos or Kim Kardashian’s “25 Random Things About Me” note (which exists).  Cause hey, if the right (or wrong) picture gets uploaded onto there, then that’s an extra hundred grand in the Facebook bank account.
  • There’s only one real thing that the little people like us would have to worry about Facebook stealing: Intellectual content or ideas shared via Facebook notes, videos, posted items, etc.  Does this mean that Ralph should be careful to never post anything about his Cricket project on Facebook because one of the founders could see it, think it’s genius, & try to claim rights to the idea?  They probably wouldn’t get away with it, but is this a legitimate concern?  If Jay previewed a Lost Podcast vidcast on Facebook in order to entice more people to download it on iTunes, could there be an actual argument over who owns it?

So yeah, that’s my 2 cents.  Just like when the news feed started 2 years ago, Facebook had a quick response time to all of the negative feedback & took action (though I personally loved the Stalker Feed from Day 1…).  I just have to wonder, though, how many Facebook users over the last few days actually did stop uploading original content in protest…

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