Your License on Facebook

There’s been some discussion about Facebook and privacy, but less, perhaps, about the matter of who may use the material posted to it. Remember the fuss when Google Chrome’s EULA claimed rights in everything that passed through the browser? Well, if you’re a Facebook user, you might want to take a look at their “contractual” offer.

Facebook’s terms of use make it clear that in using the site you:

hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to

    (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you

      (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or
      (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and

    (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.

(Does paragraph ‘b’ make sense? I’m having trouble parsing it.)

All you base are belong to them — except, it would seem, insofar as your privacy terms inhibit their right to “use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform” etc. your content, as spelled out at length in their privacy policy. It’s not clear to me, at least, what this adds up to. If, on my privacy settings, I check “all of my networks” or “friends of friends,” have I effectively enabled Facebook to “display” photos I’ve uploaded, etc.? If I keep the maximum of privacy possible, have I in effect nullified the above license?

I’m sure that there are readers out there who’ve figured this thing out. What’s the opinion among users?


  1. I expect that the license means what it says — anything I upload to FB gives them the freedom to use it in any way they like, at any time in the future. So if I were a photographer who made money from publishing my images, I wouldn’t put any of those images on FB.

    And if you set your FB account to the maximum level of privacy, I’m sure that doesn’t nullify the license. The license is there forever — or at least that’s the way I would set the license up.

    FB essentially has no competition, so they can make their license as restrictive as they like — essentially, taking a page out of Microsoft’s book.

  2. I think \subject only to your privacy settings\ has a lot of weight. If you change your privacy settings, as you mentioned, FB cannot use that content.
    However, what most users do not realize is that most of their pictures are not set to private but are public. This ensures that if friends are \tagged\ in a picture, friends-of-friends and F-of-F-of-F etc. (who wouldn’t normally have access to your space) can still view those pictures.

    As for para. (b) I think it restricts the use by FB of your name, likeness, or image only to facebook platform or for promotion of facebook. This seems more consistent with the FB privacy policy.

    Another question is, since the license is irrevocable, what happens when you change the privacy settings later on? If your data was public for even a couple of days before you changed the privacy settings I think you already gave away the irrevocable\grant\

  3. People’s photos do get used in advertisements within Facebook. A while back I joined a “fan page” for Canadian Club (yes, that Canadian Club) and immediately my profile photo was used in advertisements that my Facebook friends saw. Needless to say, I un-joined that page pretty quickly. But, that is an advertising option for companies using Facebook to use. I was appalled.

    Because Facebook essentially ends up owning your content, I recommend groups not base themselves in Facebook but instead find a “home” somewhere else (either on their own website or on another network such as Ning) so they will own their content. It’s okay to have a promotional page on Facebook, but not good to lock up your whole content there.

  4. Not a lawyer, but love this blog! I work with non-profits that are trying to save money by using online services like Facebook, Ning, Google Apps, WordPress, etc., to host their content/apps/data, and we’re soooo confused about all of the language about content/data ownership in EULA’s, etc. (we’ve got a law student looking into all of this for us, if you want to help us out, let me know!).

    Connie mentions Ning, but others have also suggested that we should be concerned about Ning and other services that have lines like (my bolding):

    “You hereby grant Ning, during the course of your usage of the Ning Platform, a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, sublicenseable and transferable right and license to (i) use, reproduce, create derivative works of, distribute, publicly
    perform and publicly display Your Content (a) for the sole purpose of operating and making Your Content available on the Ning Platform and in all current and future media in which the Ning Platform may now or
    hereafter be distributed or transmitted or (b) for our internal business purposes; and (ii) disclose metrics regarding Your Content on an aggregated basis for advertising, marketing and business development purposes.”

    Does Ning also own our content? Do they all? Little non-profits like ours don’t have the capacity to fully comprehend the implications of what we may or may not agree to on such sites. Online discussions on the subject are not always completely illuminating or conclusive. I’m wondering if anyone has come across any (preferably Canadian) good sources/resources for us to better understand language to watch out for/understand, etc.? Thanks!

  5. Facebook’s owner, Mark Zuckerberg, has come out with an explanation of the new terms – what some people consider a pretty wimpy explanation at that. The modern lawyer’s response might be “if that’s what you meant, why didn’t you say so?”

  6. Terms of Use Update

    Here is a note from the Facebook leadership, announcing a reversion to their old Terms of Service.

    Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

    If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

    The owner, Mark Zuckerberg, posted this explanation to his blog on the reversion.