Facebook's New Terms: Why my best photos won't be on Facebook anymore

November 30, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

You may have noticed people posting notices on their Facebook timelines in an attempt to protect themselves and their content from Facebook's new terms of service.  I brushed it off, at first, as another episode of Facebook updates policies and paranoid freak out, but it turns out there might be some merit to the concerns this time.  

After I suggested to my misguided friends that posting a paragraph on their timelines probably won't get them out of their legal contract with Facebook, I decided to find out what all their fuss was about this time. After reading the new terms for myself and growing a bit concerned at some of the language, I stumbled on this article from the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), which explained why professional photographers like myself ought to be concerned. It turns out that this time, Facebook's changes to their terms have actually directly affected us as professionals, especially those of us who license our work commercially (or hope to).  

Here is where the trouble lies; in the following excerpt from Facebook's Terms of Service:

"For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to yourprivacy 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."

What does that mean? Well, it means you have granted a license for Facebook to use your intellectual property however they want. While giving Facebook rights to our work might not bother some of us, the trouble comes when we want to sell an exclusive commercial license to an image later. As ASMP warns:

"...imagine that a client comes to you in a few months and wants to license an image from you for exclusive commercial use. If that image is posted on Facebook, you would not be able to offer exclusivity to that client because Facebook’s preexisting license to that image would be a conflict. If you were to go through with that agreement, you could be in breach of one contract or the other." 

The idea is; you grant Facebook a license to any image you post, which in effect means that you can not, by definition, "exclusively" license that image ever again.  As commercial photographers know, exclusive commercial licensing is usually the most lucrative use of an image. That is why, unfortunately, I am going to stop posting my best work on Facebook.  While I don't mind sharing my work with the world, I cannot afford to give up any future licensing rights to my work simply in order to share it.  

I understand that Facebook is not trying to steal my work. They aren't being malicious. They aren't trying to take money out of our pockets. My concern, however, is not their intent, it is their affect. This time, unfortunately, they really are potentially taking money out of our pockets.  

I tried to find out how to contact Facebook about these terms, but I couldn't find a way to contact support.  The best I could figure was send a message to Mark Zuckerberg. If you're on Facebook, send Mark a message and let him know how you feel about the new terms.  If you have a better way of contacting Facebook, please contact me and I will update this article.  

 


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