I’m actually very interested in the whole issue. For a long time now I’ve pointed people at the offending paragraph in the Facebook ToS which has potentially claimed usage rights to what you upload to their servers, and I’ve fought shy of putting a lot of my own photo or video content on the site for that very reason. Those of you who have heard me speak about social media in public may well have heard me point it out in the past. Based on the current wording I still wouldn’t share my family photos on Facebook.
Anyway, the recent amendment to the ToS and the apparent continued claim to retain and use content even after a profile is deleted caused Facebook to rapidly change tack. People are hailing the reversal to the previous ToS as a victory… all I’d say to that is that I was concerned enough about the previous wording. The relevant wording is below, although it’s important to note that the same paragraph goes on to state that Facebook does NOT claim OWNERSHIP of the material, but the wording is pretty clear about usage rights, in my opinion:
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 licence (with the right to sublicence) 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 authorise sublicences of the foregoing.
(excerpted from http://www.facebook.com/terms.php as they stood at 14:00 GMT 18th Feb 2009)
In response to the noisy reaction to the aborted change, Mark Zuckerberg posted on the Facebook blog talking about taking a new approach to crafting and communicating the TOS. I find this particularly interesting, as it suggests that Facebook wants to take a more collective or even potentially a crowdsourced approach to the whole area.
Now, I’ve been through this kind of experience, myself, professionally – IBM has been through the process of creating blogging, virtual worlds, and now social software usage guidelines, and we’ve done so transparently, collaboratively, and with a pleasantly light touch. I’m not yet convinced that Facebook will take such an open and collaborative approach to revising their service guidelines… and as Rooney tweeted earlier, this does present a challenge for a company but as we know it’s not the first time that the socially-networked masses have forced a change in policy, and not even the first time Facebook has been affected. Interesting times, and I will continue to follow this area with interest.
Update: some nice thoughts on the issue here, too.