Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facebook's new Terms of Service

There's evidently a big hullabaloo about Facebook changing their Terms of Service. It's a big enough deal that I heard it mentioned on the radio this morning, which means it's gotten past the .000001% of us who actually read such things. For reference here are the old terms:

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 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. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. 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.

The new terms scratch that last sentence. Big deal.

Under the new terms you give Facebook the right to relicense (at a profit) your video of your kids to be part of a porn shoot without telling you, even after you close your account. Under the old terms they could still sell it to the porn industry before you close your account, and because they relicensed it you can't do anything about sales they made prior to your account closure, but once you close that account they have to find somebody else to make new sales with.

The change even makes sense. Previously if you closed your account they technically had to go through everybody else's pages and make sure that no mention of anything you did appeared anymore. Now they can keep that stuff up.

The broader license, however, doesn't. Facebook claims they need such far reaching rights so that they can share your stuff with other Facebook users. I once knew an FCC investigator into two way radios (which are legally required to use as little power as needed) and he said he wasn't really interested in the guy running at 2000W; it was the guy talking to him with 2W that was interesting. Similarly, Flickr/Yahoo! is an interesting point of reference here. Flickr seems to do just fine allowing people to share their pictures, and this is the license they use for it:

However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable:
With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo! Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Yahoo! Services.

Some of the text here is similar (in particular the standard right to "use, distributed, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform, and publicly display" content) but there is an enormous gulf between Facebook's perpetual, irrevocable, and transferable license and right to sublicense with Yahoo!'s license to use solely for the purpose for with such content was submitted for as long as you elect to continue to include such content.

No comments: