Facebook’s New TOS is a Principle We Need to Understand

facebook-logoIf you haven’t heard all the hub-bub this week about how Facebook has changed their Terms of Service, then let me point you to an article from The Consumerist: Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: “We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.”

Another great recap of what’s going on was provided by Ignite Social Media’s article All Your Face Are Belong To Us – Facebook’s Terms of Service.

In short, if you publish anything to Facebook, they have the right to keep that content and use it as they please.

And this should not be a surprise or shock to anyone because here’s the principle:

If you publish content to a server that someone else owns, at the very least, you share ownership of that content with the person paying to host it for you.

Not every free hosting service wants to use your content for their own purposes and usually/probablly won’t, but if they are doing you a favor “for free”, they retain the right to use it if they like. That’s why they type up the TOS the way they do.

How do you stop it?  Here’s the principle:

If you publish content to a web server that you own then you retain the rights to that content because you are paying for it yourself.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Someone pays and whoever does has rights to the stuff.

So your best solution is to buy a server, get it hooked up, and publish your content to your server that you own.  If that doesn’t fit well with you, then you have to partner with other services to help you.  And when you partner, you will at least have to share.

Robert Scoble says User data ownership on Facebook doesn’t matter and he’s absolutely right — at least in principle.

So what to do about Facebook and all the other free web services out there?  Just know if you put it there, it’s not fully yours.  Better to get your own blog or web host and publish everything there, then allow Facebook, etc to link to it.  You can also put a Creative Commons Licence on your content so you can have more control over how content is used.

Else just do what most people do and publish what you wish wherever you wish knowing that no matter what, you’re sharing your content with others and let it go.

UPDATE: Facebook reverted their TOS, but I still say the principle is still the same.

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  • Thanks for clarifying some of this, Rob. I’m updating my original post and linking this article.

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  • Good stuff, Rob! Clear, concise. I linked it up on the Facebook TOS change group I started — now close to 2,000 members!