Did you read the terms and conditions when you signed up to Facebook, Linked In or Twitter? For many people reading the terms and conditions of service seems too much like hard work. Furthermore, some terms and conditions are difficult to understand without services of a lawyer to interpret them for you. We are an impatient generation and want instant access to their social media services so often we sign up regardless. But do you know what rights you granted to Facebook, Linked In or Twitter when you signed up? Do you even know who owns your online content?
We have done the work for you! Below we look at the terms of service in relation to online content of some of the most popular social media services.
When you sign up to Facebook you agree to their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use and Cookie Use policy. These are lengthy terms and span over 8 pages of writing. Not surprising then that many people accept them blindly and focus instead on selecting the right profile picture and complimentary cover photo. But what rights have you handed over to Facebook?
In relation to any content covered by intellectual property rights (eg photos and videos), you grant Facebook a license to use the content in any way it wishes. Facebook can also transfer or sublicense its rights over a user’s content and it has no obligation to compensate users for this use. It is a royalty-free worldwide license that extends beyond the delivery of the service. Furthermore, Facebook’s license does not end upon the deactivation or deletion of a user’s account. IP content is only released from this license once all other users that have interacted with the content (eg tagged or shared the content) have removed it.
Similarly, Twitter’s terms grant extremely broad rights over users’ intellectual property. The terms, to which every new member must agree, give the company “a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense)” to photos posted on Twitter. While the photo remains the intellectual property of the user, in practice, Twitter has almost total control over the image. The company claims the right to use, modify or transmit any photo, writing or video posted on Twitter, to any other forms of media (eg newspapers and media websites). You might think that this will not impact you but a number of people have been surprised in recent times when content from their social media profiles appeared in the media after they hit the headlines eg the Peru 2, Michaela McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid.
LinkedIn’s terms of service have been described as “a land grab for users’ rights and content”. LinkedIn claims the right to “copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialise, in any way now known or in the future discovered…” users’ content, data, concepts or even ideas passed through their service. It is a startling claim over users’ rights and content, the impact of which can only be guessed at, at this early stage of LinkedIn’s development.
Google’s terms of service apply to all of their online services and it is difficult to avoid signing up to them if you want to use services such as Gmail, Google+ and Google Maps. Fortunately, Google terms of service restrict its use of users’ content to “the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones,” which is a much more limited right than those claimed by Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
The bottom line is, however off-putting reading their terms of service might seem, it is still a legally binding contract between you and the social network. It is foolish to blindly sign up without knowing what rights you are granting to them and what they could do with your intellectual property in the future.