Archive For August, 2008

Facebook Has License to Sell Your Photos

I’m seeing two trends lately. The first is that more people are posting with to Facebook exclusively or both to Facebook and Flickr. The second is an increasing number of my photographer friends using Facebook to promote their photography by posting their photos there. I can understand both of these trends, of course. Facebook is where the social network truly is and not everybody uses Flickr or other services.

However, a friend recently mentioned Facebook’s licensing policies as they pertain to photos and all content uploaded. I took a look and hear is what I found (emphasis my own):

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, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, 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.

Now optimistically, this means, “we can use your stuff to help promote Facebook” but there is certainly sufficient language there to suggest they can do whatever the hell they want with it, including sell the photos. Granted, there’s a clause right after that says:

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.

But that hardly makes me feel better since wherever I store my photos, I plan to store for a long time. On Flickr, I can choose how my photos are licensed to the world and who gets to use them. As far as I know, nobody – not Flickr, not Yahoo! – can sell my photos or use them without my permission unless I explicitly set a license permitting such to the public.

Is this something that I’m just late to the game with? Is it common knowledge? Or am I reading too much into the text?

Update 2/16/09: The Consumerist posted about update to the TOS pointing out that the one “out” I quoted above has now been removed. Yikes.

Update 2/16/09 II: Mark Zuckerberg posted a response in which he states:

Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they’ve asked us to share it with.

Which sounds great but really doesn’t explain why they would need the right to “distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise”.