Catherine Forsythe

Catherine Forsythe
know a bit about computer security, dogs, horses, skiing, medicine and making risotto. My nickname in real life/online is "Noggie" - I'm on Twitter, with the @dogreader account.

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 9, 2011 4:15PM

The Issue Of Ownership and Using Your Pictures on Facebook

Rate: 16 Flag
Millions of pictures are posted on Facebook every day. There are more than "250 million photos" uploaded daily. Facebook has worked to make the process of placing pictures on an account easier and more efficient.

For years, there has been some controversy about who owns the content on a Facebook account. Facebook has stated that it has "never claimed ownership of material that users upload". In its terms of service, Facebook makes the following statement about sharing content:

"...  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."

This statement is taken from the revision of the terms of service issued on April 26, 2011. It is questionable how many Facebook users actually have read the details of the terms of service. The posted material is not owned by Facebook. However, it has liberal use of the material. 

The legality of this is summarized by Professor Michael Geist from the University of Ottawa. Professor Geist is an expert on internet law and states that "the photographer has rights [to] the photograph. They retain those rights, but they transfer to Facebook certain rights to use the work". 

There is a way to somewhat protect the content of the material downloaded onto a Facebook account. In its terms of service, Facebook states that it will respect the account's privacy settings. By default, when one looks at Account - Privacy Settings, the default privacy is "Public". That can be changed to either "Friends" or "Custom". With a change in settings, there should be added protection of the contents of a Facebook account. However, there are two salient points. It is a monumental task on most occasions to track content and generally many people would not think to do so. There are the times, however, when certain content has wide distribution. The second point is that the terms of service of a website such as Facebook is subject to change at any time. 

Few Facebook users are that diligent and track changes in terms of service. Even when those changes are reported on internet / technological sites, only a small per centage of users follow such details. The advantage is always with the site.

Catherine Forsythe 

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It's a good thing we did not sign anything..:)
I am joking..
Happy EP
Thank you, Catherine. It's best not to post any photos that one doesn't want the world to see.
"The posted material is not owned by Facebook. However, it has liberal use of the material."

~nodding~ Most, if not all, sites do this. Basically if they want to use your picture on an ad, according to the TOS you agree to, they can without you going, "Hello? That's my pic!!"

And not only pictures, but writings as well.

Facebook just confuses me. I really don't see why some people are so enamored with the site. It's just seems so meaningless, unless your a business. Then it's a way to advertise. So many of my friends spend hours each week on their Facebook space. I just don't get it at all.
Catherine, this is what makes your blog great. I love the posts you do of half-news half-human interest in your voice that sees both. Love it...
Thanks for this piece. I resisted joining Facebook until about a month ago and basically treat it as an informal, more effective LinkedIn. I have not posted any pictures (besides my own mug). Still, I like seeing the photos of friends, especially those I don't see very much.

It's the old "buyer beware." Maybe people are less careful because Facebook is "free."

Thanks again. And I totally agree with your comments on my university student story. It's so sad.
I have to confess I'm one of those who click through the terms of service and ignore it. I'm making a promise to myself not to do that again.
Great piece. I only recently discovered all my photos were "public" and had to change to "friends only". FB keeps changing the privacy settings without letting people know.
That would be a shock to see a picture of you taken at a party in '95 being used in a print vodka ad or something....
Facebook, the ultimate big tease. Just when I think I have it figured out, it goes fickle on me.
Like many who posted, I keep my facebook squeaky clean--just only an occasional link to my articles on Open Salon and then I worry about my acquaintances and former students learning about the real me. Facebook changes their terms so frequently; luckily my friends ususally post an alert.