Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter

UPDATE 5/8/09: Facebook revised its Terms of Service, aka the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” Here’s their blog post about it, and here’s the current policy.


With today’s outrage over Facebook’s newly altered Terms of Service at its peak, I figured I’d do a quick comparison of their terms of service as regards user-uploaded content to the terms specified by other social networking sites, just to see if said outrage is fully justified. It looks as though the finger-pointing at the Bush robots.txt file wasn’t justified, for instance, and I was guilty of spreading that story.

Conclusion? Go ahead and be outraged. Facebook’s claims to your content are extraordinarily grabby and arrogant. Here’s the rundown, which I go through in more detail below:

  1. Facebook apparently wants to keep all its rights to your stuff after you remove it from Facebook, and even after you delete your Facebook account; they just removed the lines that specified that their rights end when your content comes down. Nobody else (of those I looked at) would dream of that; mostly they specifically state that their rights to your content end when you remove the content from their site or delete your account.
  2. This one kills me: Facebook claims it can do whatever it wants with your content if you put a Share on Facebook link on your web page. Unbelievable–and unique, as far as I can tell. People can post links in Facebook to your content just by copying and pasting the URL, but if you want to save them a few keystrokes by putting a link or a widget on your site, Facebook claims that you’ve granted them a whole mess of rights. Count me out.
  3. Other sites point out in their terms of service that you still own your content: Facebook doesn’t mention that little fact. Facebook also neglects to remind you that you’re giving other Facebook users rights to your Facebook content, too — YouTube, for example, makes it clear that other people besides YouTube have a right to use and spread around the videos you upload. In general, other sites’ terms of service just have a more helpful tone.

So let’s look at what other popular user-generated content sites say about their rights to your stuff:

MySpace’s rights to your stuff:

6.1 MySpace does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain any such rights that you may have in your Content, subject to the limited license herein. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace a limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on or through the MySpace Services, including without limitation distributing part or all of the MySpace Website in any media formats and through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the MySpace Website. This limited license does not grant MySpace the right to sell or otherwise distribute your Content outside of the MySpace Services. After you remove your Content from the MySpace Website we will cease distribution as soon as practicable, and at such time when distribution ceases, the license will terminate. If after we have distributed your Content outside the MySpace Website you change the Content’s privacy setting to “private,” we will cease distribution of such “private” Content outside the MySpace Website as soon as practicable after you make the change.

6.2 The license you grant to MySpace is non-exclusive (meaning you are free to license your Content to anyone else in addition to MySpace), fully-paid and royalty-free (meaning that MySpace is not required to pay you for the use on the MySpace Services of the Content that you post), sublicensable (so that MySpace is able to use its affiliates, subcontractors and other partners such as Internet content delivery networks and wireless carriers to provide the MySpace Services), and worldwide (because the Internet and the MySpace Services are global in reach).

See? MySpace grants itself a “limited” license and carefully spells out what those limits are. MySpace does a terrific job in that second paragraph especially of explaining what’s going on, I think. Maybe your average thirteen-year-old would still need some help, but way to go with the “human-readable” language, MySpace. Getting an explanation about why they need to be able to sublicense the content is terrific, and I’m sure that if they then tried to sublicense it for other purposes, they’d be tripped up by their own TOS.

Yahoo!’s rights to your Flickr stuff:

Yahoo! does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Yahoo! Services. 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.

Yahoo! makes distinctions between its Groups and other services like Flickr, but that need not concern us here (Yahoo! reserves fewer rights to Groups stuff than to Flickr stuff). They start by reminding you that they don’t own your stuff, then go on to say that they have the right to copy your stuff “solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted.” In other words, they don’t grant themselves the right to use it in their advertising, as far as I can tell. And, sanely, the license ends when you (or they) take the content down. I checked out the Flickr Pro TOS, as well, and there’s nothing extra in there, whew. I also love that Flickr makes it very easy to stick a Creative Commons license on your photos, although to be honest I’m not sure if I’ve done that with mine. Must check.

Google’s rights to your Picasa stuff:

Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Picasa Web Albums. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Picasa Web Albums and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Picasa Web Albums, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content through Picasa Web Albums, including RSS or other content feeds offered through Picasa Web Albums, and other Google services. In addition, by submitting, posting or displaying Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google will discontinue this licensed use within a commercially reasonable period after such Content is removed from Picasa Web Albums.

Sounds reasonable. I don’t really mind their using my stuff in their advertising, though “other Google services” may soon encompass every single conceivable service on the planet. They, too, stop the license when you take the content down.

YouTube’s rights to your stuff:

For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions. However, by submitting User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the YouTube Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each user of the YouTube Website a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Website and under these Terms of Service. The above licenses granted by you in User Videos terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete your User Videos from the YouTube Website. You understand and agree, however, that YouTube may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of User Submissions that have been removed or deleted. The above licenses granted by you in User Comments are perpetual and irrevocable.

I really like it when these paragraphs start with the helpful information that “you retain all ownership rights.” Also note that YouTube points out that “You also hereby grant each user of the YouTube Website” some rights. Way to look out for the community. Good job. Now add the ability for us to put Creative Commons licenses on our videos somewhere other than in the description, okay? Thanks.

LinkedIn’s rights to your stuff:

License and warrant your submissions: You do not have to submit anything to us, but if you choose to submit something (including any User generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and data), you must grant, and you actually grant by concluding this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royaltyfree right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, and use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, anything that you submit to us, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.

LinkedIn is the one exception to the general conclusion I state above: its language about its rights to your content is at least as strong as Facebook’s, if not more so. The thing is that people don’t upload pictures and videos to LinkedIn; the main user-contributed content is the facts in a profile (where I worked, where I went to school). People usually don’t mind having that information spread around. Also, you can tell that LinkedIn is thinking mainly about the suggestions for improvement that people submit (“ideas, concepts, techniques”) — but still, LinkedIn would be well-advised to revise.

Twitter’s rights to your stuff:

1. We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. You can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account. This will also remove any text and images you have stored in the system.

2. We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.

Isn’t that sweet? Granted, the only stuff people contribute to Twitter are their little 140-character tweets, plus a profile pic or two — these terms don’t cover what you post to TwitPic, for instance. But Twitter wants you to know that your stuff is yours, and it wants you to share your stuff with others. Twitter doesn’t reserve to itself the right to use your tweets in its promotional campaigns — does Twitter even do any self-promotion? They hardly need to; the New York Times has certainly been giving them enough press lately.

Facebook’s rights to your stuff:

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.

Yeah, so I took the Facebook icon out of my Sociable WordPress widget. All my stuff here has a Creative Commons license, so I’ve already allowed everyone including Facebook to use my stuff for “non-commercial” purposes anyway; it’s not quite clear what counts as a “commercial” purpose in a Creative Commons license, granted (though they’re working on clarifying the term), but any use that Facebook would make would probably be commercial. I don’t even mind all commercial uses: I don’t really care if they want to use my profile picture to show that the people who use Facebook are really sexy and good-looking. But the stuff on my blog does not become Facebook “User Content” if I put a link that allows people to share it on Facebook. Come off it.

244 thoughts on “Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter

  1. Pingback: Facebook Hording Your Content? | joeflasher.com
  2. Amanda, Thank you so much for your post. I’m contemplating removing my “Tell A Friend” and “Share” widgets because they include FB. I guess I’ll pull out of Networked Blogs, too, on FB.

    I’m still in a quandary about what it means to post a URL to FB. Does the FB TOS declare universal copyrights on any other publications’ content that’s posted in a URL–say, The New Yorker, LA Times, etc? It seems unfair to bloggers, most of whom are not backed by corporate (thinning) wallets. I wish the FB folks would have some crisis communication consult and clear the air (not to mention amending its TOS). On the whole, this aspect of the FB TOS seems unenforceable given the number of users, reams of content on FB, etc.

    (Don’t get me started on indemnity clauses in contracts!)

  3. Hi, Delia! Facebook’s TOS does *not* “declare universal copyrights on any other publications’ content that’s posted in a URL,” I’m certain. But it does say that if you are the New York Times and you put a “Share on Facebook” link on a New York Times article on nytimes.com, Facebook gets to “use, copy, publish” that article as much as it wants. Same goes for independent bloggers.

    I’m not a lawyer, of course, but I’m pretty confident of that reading.

  4. Thanks, Amanda.

    I’ve actually started a protest group on Facebook that might make sense to recommend to your readers. It’s called “I Disagree with Facebook’s Eternal Ownership Policy” and can be found at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49853549613

    Seems like we should show FB that many, many people disagree with this policy.

    Thanks for highlighting this important issue.

  5. Pingback: Facebook » Blog Archive » Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  6. The stupid thing is that the “Share Link” provision has apparently been there for quite awhile — it’s not even new, though it would never have occurred to me that they’d make such a claim. Also, legally, it probably refers only to Facebook’s own Share Link service at www.facebook.com/share_partners.php ; I can’t tell whether using the Sociable widget or something else would count in court. But why should I take a chance?

  7. Thanks very much for this, Amanda. It’s very helpful. I’ve removed the link from my webpage to my Facebook page, and am going to cease activities on Facebook until I decide how and whether I wish to participate in a venue that requires my acquiescence to such bizarrely proprietorial terms of service.

  8. Illuminating post! Seeing Facebook’s terms of service in comparison to those of other social networking sites reveals how much it is overstepping….

  9. From Typepad:

    Six Apart does not claim ownership of the Content you place on your Six Apart Blog Site. By submitting Content to Six Apart for inclusion on your Six Apart Blog Site, you grant Six Apart a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your Blog Site on Six Apart’s Internet properties. This license exists only for as long as you continue to be a Six Apart customer and shall be terminated at the time your Blog Site is terminated.

    (Though they also reserve the right to change the TOS without notice.)

  10. Does this create a situation where Facebook could be held to a higher standard with respect to user’s acts of infringement due to their assertion of ownership?

  11. Thanks Amanda, that is an excellent summary of the situation. Thanks for doing the legwork of comparing other service TOS.

    Facebook has responded this afternoon with a rather duplicitous statement that “We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload.” — but as is obvious by the comparisons above, they have NEVER clearly specified that that have NOT so claimed either.

    Not to mention there is an important difference between uploaded content and the content produced on the site – they may not own the content, but they clearly will claim they own “the fact that” of information – they exploit “the fact that” you are a certain sex, age, location, like chocolate, rabbits and death metal music.

    What is most egregious to me about this is that it is not an anomaly, but rather the latest in a consistent pattern of behavior by Facebook to claim ownership over its users’ information.

  12. I have begun removing all of my photos from Facebook. Do you know how to remove a blog from their network? I am assuming that since my blog posts stream to Facebook that they can steal my content?

  13. Pingback: Myspace » Blog Archive » Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  14. Arrived here via @academicdave’s tweet. Thanks for doing this for all of us; I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to go home and squint at all these TOS agreements, and here you’ve gone and done it for us! Most appreciated!

  15. Big ups for doing the legwork on this, Amanda. TOSs are deathly dull compared to what I’d guess you normally set your eyes upon.

  16. I’ve never seen the appeal of Facebook in the first place. People I’ve wanted to keep up with from school I have by other means. Same for family.

  17. Pingback: Nicholas Young :: The Blog » Blog Archive » My open letter to facebook
  18. Pingback: Solutions. Tech Consultants » Blog Archive » Big Brother facebook: Who do your pictures belong to?
  19. I was about to post a link to this on my FB page (I have a lot of friends who would NEVER hear about this otherwise) but then stopped to double-check that doing that wouldn’t somehow give FB rights to it. Even if it isn’t THAT bad (yet), how crazy is it that I have to worry about it?

  20. I’m not sure that ii) of the TOS entitles them to the content on your web page, only the content that gets submitted when a user clicks on the “share link”. I believe that many pages have a blurb or synopsis that gets posted in a user’s news when this button is clicked and that is what the TOS covers.

    I’m not a lawyer (but I play one on TV) so I could be wrong on this.

    I think the only thing that is really different between the facebook and the others is the perpetual rights thing. The rest all seem to have everything else that facebook has. This is a big difference, however, and we all need to revisit what we want to put on facebook in light of it.

  21. I added this to my facebook

    All information crated by (my name) is copyrighted. Facebook can use this as long as (my name) consent to its use. Deleting information equals (my name) denial of consent. This agreement supersede all other agreements. Publishing this one or more times constitutes agreement to these terms
    (my name) ©

  22. This is too much of a risk to me. It’s so easy to sue nowadays for anything. Why would FB WANT to take responsibility for other peoples actions and opinions?

  23. While I agree that FB’s TOS are very restrictive and rather unappealing (especially item 2 as you point out), I do have to point out that the TOS *does* say under “Ownership; Proprietary Rights”: “Except for User Content and Applications/Connect Sites, all materials, content and trademarks on the Facebook Service are the property of Facebook and/or its licensors and are protected by all relevant IP laws and other proprietary rights (including copyright, trademark, trade dress and patent laws) and any other applicable laws.” [emphasis added]

    Then in the next paragraph, under “Licenses,” it says basically that although you own it, they can do whatever they want with it. Still bad, yes, but I just wanted to clarify — the TOS does mention that you still own the content, just that they pretty much can manipulate & distribute it however they want.

  24. Great post, thanks for laying this out. I think it’s pretty clear that Facebook and LinkedIn are living in the “old” era of social networking, where being closed and grabby was acceptable. This is, in my opinion, where they’re going to be attacked and eventually beaten, from a user’s perspective. It’s going to take most users a long time to get there, I think, but it’s nice to see that you’re out in front on taking action due to their policies.

  25. A couple of further points worth emphasizing from Facebook’s TOS:

    First, yes, when you “post” any content to Facebook — which includes via a link, not just anything you upload — you grant Facebook an “irrevocable, perpetual” license as specified above. See the definition of “Post” in the TOS.

    Second, when you “post” (again, in the sense defined in the TOS) any content to Facebook, “You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.”

    I don’t see any way of reading this other than as claiming that if I use, say, the “Share on Facebook” bookmarklet to post someone else’s Flickr photo, or a story from the New York Times, to my profile, I am thereby “representing and warranting” that I have the “rights and permissions” to grant Facebook a license to use that linked content.

    This claim would seem to me to be unenforceable, and at odds with the stated purpose of being able to post links in the first place, since it would technically place me in violation of the TOS were I to link to someone else’s copyrighted material.

    But I can’t see any other way of interpreting it. It’s crazy!

  26. OK FB – you want ownership of everything? Fine. Let’s all start bulk uploading pr0n, libellous comments, terr0rist threats & other uglies. Then close our accounts.

    And when it’s all up there and ringing alarm bells in every government spy agency in the world, we can say: “You wanted it – now it’s all yours FaceBook baby – now deal with it.”

  27. Amanda, thanks for this post, it has really been helpful for a lot of people; it appears you are “the source” for this discussion. A few points:

    1. Ownership is being vaunted as the “big deal” here, and I disagree vehemently. So you “own” your content, but Facebook has rights to it, forever. Unless your company is worth 3 billion dollars, then who cares if you own it? You can’t compete with a 3 billion dollar gorilla. If they use your photo in an ad, or they sell your photos elsewhere, would you be able to defend yourself, given their TOS and your acquiescing to their TOS?

    2. I think the “Share on Facebook” link doesn’t grant rights to *your* content, just to the posted content which appears on Facebook’s site. Still; I’m in complete favor of avoiding any legal quandry by removing links to Facebook from blogs.

    3. The talk regarding posting “links” to Facebook requiring rights to the linked content seems a little out of bounds as well. While I agree they have stepped over the line with their TOS, I don’t believe they are attempting to passively gain access to all “linked” content with their TOS. Simply that they can reuse the link, not the destination of the link’s content.

    Finally, for those who are crying wolf, or believe the sky is falling, this type of practice is not new. It is sad because as a platform Facebook has really shined and I personally will be sad if I feel I have to cancel my account to send my own, insignificant, message to Facebook.

    Ultimately, it is important for people to remain vigilant, and to take action when they feel they are being treated unfairly. While Facebook is a large corporation, there is a contract and trust between them and the people. When they betray that trust, your ONLY option is to leave, and entice others to do the same.

    Although, the “protest groups” at facebook number at 15,000 now of the 500,000,000 members, it will hopefully make some difference.

    And finally: When you pay nothing for a service, you should have no expectations of privacy. There exist very few examples of when this is not true.

  28. Amanda,

    I am thinking that surely by law they cannot claim license to every outside websites’ content that has a link to Facebook??
    If the “New York Times” doesn’t have an account with Facebook then they are not affected by Facebooks ‘Terms’. Am I wrong?
    What exactly is a “Share on Facebook” link?… Just a link no?

    Not at all defending FBook – I’m concerned by these new ‘above-the-law’ ‘Terms’.

  29. Any ideas on how this impacts on the RSS import function? Does it also mean that anything that is imported, say from your Flickr account, also becomes effectively their property?

  30. Pingback: Facebook Changes Thier TOS… Just a bit… | Michelle Brouse
  31. Previously posted: “it does say that if you are the New York Times and you put a “Share on Facebook” link on a New York Times article on nytimes.com, Facebook gets to “use, copy, publish” that article as much as it wants. Same goes for independent bloggers.”

    I will LOVE it when the NYT sues them for claiming ownership of an NYT article.

    And as someone else pointed out, claiming ownership of anything we post is opening them up to oceans of liability. What would happen if someone posted kidporn on FB?
    Of Course FB would delete it and the user would be arrested, but he could say in court that FB owns the pictures merely because he posted them.

  32. Pingback: Youtube » Blog Archive » Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  33. Vimeo’s TOS:

    You also grant each user of the VIMEO Site and Services a non-exclusive license to access your Submission through the VIMEO Site or any other access point authorized by VIMEO, and to use, copy, transmit or otherwise distribute, perform, publicly perform, create derivative works of, and display your Submission to the extent expressly authorized by VIMEO on the VIMEO Site and/or in this TOS. Any Submission you provide VIMEO will be deemed public information. None of the Submissions shall be subject to any obligation of confidence on the part of VIMEO, and VIMEO shall not be liable for any use or disclosure of any Submissions. All Submissions are subject to the COMMUNITY STANDARDS AND CONDUCT listed below.

    For any Submission that is a video, the licenses granted by you herein shall terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete such Submission from the Site. You understand and agree, however, that VIMEO may retain (but not display, distribute, or perform) server copies of Submissions that have been removed or deleted, and that VIMEO shall have no obligation to attempt to remove from distribution any of your Submissions that are videos that are otherwise publicly available through the Internet or other publicly accessible medium. For any Submission that is not a video, the licenses granted by you herein are perpetual and irrevocable.

    Details @ vimeo.com/terms

  34. Great stuff! I am shocked that Facebook thought that they could get away at such vague language to do whatever they want whenever they want.

  35. The city of Fökkholmstad, Sweden thanks you for your informative article.

  36. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I especially appreciate the point that LoneWolf, Nathan Rein, and Kent Davidson make: that Facebook is (clumsily) trying to claim rights only to the link text and to the brief blurb that gets generated; that makes a lot of sense. And, like Kent, it still seems worth it to me to remove my “Share Link,” just to avoid the *appearance* of granting them rights to the entirety of my content.

    I will say, for what my opinion’s worth, that I’ve thought all along that the problem is that the terms are badly written, not necessarily that Facebook is doing or plans to do anything unusually hideous. To that extent I do believe Mark Zuckerberg. But the problem with badly written terms is that they can easily make people’s lives hell with legal trouble. A badly written student essay (of which I’ve read many) is no problem except that it gets one student a bad grade; badly written contracts, laws, terms of service, and end user license agreements are a big deal.

    I think they need to define “User Content” and “Post” better (give the “blurb” thing as an example!) and put in some MySpace-like language that makes it clear that they’re just talking about distributing stuff within their own site. I also like Flickr’s line about “solely for the purpose for which said content was submitted.”

    And as for when the licensing ends, I’d suggest adopting the standard language used by others, and then if Facebook feel it’s necessary, they can spell out that they don’t feel they have the responsibility to remove content that has already been distributed. Nobody objects to someone having a copy of your e-mail after you’ve sent it to them! (Although even then, the recipient doesn’t have the right to publish your e-mail, because the sender retains the copyright.) I just don’t want my ISP getting a big fat book contract out of publishing my e-mails, and I don’t want to agree to language that would enable that, even though it’s not likely to happen.

  37. Pingback: Copyright Issues on Facebook «
  38. “Facebook claims it can do whatever it wants with your content if you put a Share on Facebook link on your web page. Unbelievable–and unique, as far as I can tell.”

    I was FLOORED when I saw that one. I’m removing any such links just in principle. No need to promote their service at all if they even contemplated something so ridiculous.

  39. Here is what the ToS were when I wrote a post about this about a year ago:

    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, 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 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. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

    You’re a bit late, but welcome to the party nonetheless.

  40. Thanks. This comparison is much appreciated.

    I dropped my Shared Blogs link this morning. I’ll be much more careful as to what I sign up for in the future. I still have my Facebook account, but there will be a lot less content on it. Twitter updates will be about it.

  41. We can argue all day about how badly the TOS is worded, but what truly makes it dangerous is this little snippet at the bottom of the agreement.


    Except as set forth in the paragraph below, you agree that all claims and disputes between you and Facebook that arise out of or relate in any way to the Terms or your use of the Facebook Service will be resolved either by (a) binding arbitration by a single arbitrator in Santa Clara County, California or (b) binding non-appearance based arbitration conducted by telephone, online or based solely on written submission. Such arbitration will be administered by Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (“JAMS”) (see www.jamsadr.com) pursuant to its Comprehensive Arbitration Rules. The arbitrator’s award will be binding and may be entered as a judgment in any court of competent jurisdiction.

    With respect to any claims or disputes you intend to bring on behalf of a class, you agree to arbitrate whether a class could be certified before bringing such action in a court of law. If the arbitrator refuses to certify the class, you will continue to resolve your individual claims or disputes through binding arbitration. If the arbitrator finds that a class should be certified, you may file the class action in a court of law provided you waive any right to a trial by jury. Claims for injunctive or other equitable relief may also be brought in a court of law.”

    You could possibly take FB to court, and get their TOS proclaimed illegal….. but wait, no, they have a mandatory arbitration clause. So there’s no court date for you, you just get to sit down with no physical evidence (because the discovery process is only a part of the court system) make allegations to an arbiter who has an average of <5% chance of deciding in your favor. To read more about arbitration clauses goto:


    anyway, happy facebooking ^_^

  42. Thanks for the vivid comparison! I have been frustrated with Facebook’s increasing lack of care for user’s privacy (ie like when they started plastering what you had just purchased for all the world to see, and while some people love it I don’t love the constant newsfeeds that tell me when every friend has just changed their picture or broken up with a boyfriend).

    I think fb has gone too far. Its one thing to say they cannot control what other users do with your content once you upload it (ie its your responsibility to sue if someone else infringes on your copyright)… its another issue entirely for FB to claim they basically own OUR information and content and can do anything they want with it. They need to take a look at Google’s ‘Do No Evil’ clause… cause they have lost it!

  43. Pingback: why god hates me » How Does Facebook’s TOS Compare To Other Social Networking Sites? [Facebook]
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  45. So how does this affect non-consumer FB users? By that I mean, companies and/or organizations who have FB pages.

    There are quite a few corporations out there who do maintain a FB presence and use it to promote their brand via marketing copy, images, videos, etc. This inane move by FB seems like it would open an entire shipping container full of worms, no?

    I’m not looking to debate anyone; I’m just wondering what the greater ramifications are for anyone using FB in a B2B situation.

  46. Keep in mind that for all the Google services (YouTube, Picasa, Google Docs, etc.) their main TOS applies first. Then, the specific TOS of the service is applied. Section 11 of Google’s main TOS has historically been the issue.


    So if you post a video to YouTube, Google ‘could’ take the video and, without compensation to you, create something new from it and post it back into YouTube “for the sole purpose of enabling Google to… promote the Services.” Same is true of your pictures in Picasa and yoru docs in Google Docs, etc., etc.

    The problem with all of these TOSs, as I see it, is most people don’t care. Until there may be an issue as a result of what you, the user, has already agreed to.

    People should care more that Google wants to dominate the ‘data world’, that their new phone has some shady tracking features turned on by default, and that they want to control the soon to be released new Smart Power Meters installed in your homes.

  47. Thanks Amanda! As always insightful, helpful and incredibly informational. I was unaware of the language about the share widget. I haven’t got it on any of my blogs and now won’t even consider it.

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  50. Thank you so much for bringing all this to our attention. I was a strong objector to ANYTHING FaceBook and like an idiot I joined 4 months ago cause a few friends were there.

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  52. Like others, I am very curious about the legal ramifications. It seems like a lot of these terms would probably be held unconscionable on procedural grounds. This seems especially likely given its retroactivity.

    Courts have often been very suspicious of mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts, particularly when people have no reason to suspect them. I wonder if there might also be a problem from lack of consideration, since I’m pretty sure a renunciation of your rights without anything in return would be treated as pretty suspect.

    Bottom line…I’m not sure this agreement would be even remotely enforceable. The mandatory arbitration clause would probably get kicked out, potentially leaving room for a class-action suit.

  53. Interesting. I am going to have to pass this around to a number of clients and companies I work with. We do a lot of work on Facebook, advertising and grass roots marketing. This has some nasty implications for how we can and would use content on and through Facebook.

    I’m sure a number of my clients, particularly indie content producers, will simply leave Facebook and move to MySpace or another platform. This is quite a bonehead move, I’m really surprised. I think the smart kids who started Facebook have had a few too many Microsoft lawyers give them advice.

  54. Travel Buddy’s TOS- sounds a lot like FB

    By posting Content and/or Data to any part of the Travbuddy.com Website, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to TravBuddy LLC an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, fully-paid, unrestricted, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, distribute and otherwise utilize such Content and/or Data and to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such Content and/or Data, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the Content and/or Data solely on and through the TravBuddy Service.

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  58. hi! my name is melania cruz. and I’m outraged about the policy’s of facebook. we had the right to protect our information and keep it with us. nobody has the right to send our information to other people. we had the right to protect our comments, our pictures, and our information with our friends and family. you do not have the right to send the information to other users
    that’s a big violation of our rights. thanks.


  59. Hey Amanda,

    Thanks for the info. I have a question,though I’m not sure you’ll be able to answer it. I stopped using facebook about a year ago. I’m not sure what the terms were then. So, does FB still have my content? Can they still distribute or do anything with it? I’m curious…

  60. Doesn’t Facebook’s assertation of ownership make them entirely responsible for the content? As in, they couldn’t use the “we didn’t upload it” argument when there’s been a copyright violation.

  61. I tried deleting my account and I got this message:

    Deactivating due to change in Terms of Service
    Are you deactivating because you are concerned about Facebook’s Terms of Service?

    This was a mistake that we have now corrected. You own the information you put on Facebook and you control what happens to it. We are sorry for the confusion.

  62. I find it hilarious at the number of people getting up in arms about this.

    From Sourceforge (aka Slashdot)

    With respect to text or data entered into and stored by publicly-accessible site features such as forums, comments and bug trackers (“SourceForge Public Content”), the submitting user retains ownership of such SourceForge Public Content; with respect to publicly-available statistical content which is generated by the site to monitor and display content activity, such content is owned by SourceForge. In each such case, the submitting user grants SourceForge the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, all subject to the terms of any applicable license.

    The biggest reason I see Facebook as removing the part about the license you grant them expiring when you delete your account is that there is no easy way for them to guarantee that the content is not hanging around in someone elses account.

    Apparently everyone also seemed to miss the line in the new TOS that states “SUBJECT TO YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS” But let’s not let that get in the way of a good torch waving mob.

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  66. “Apparently everyone also seemed to miss the line in the new TOS that states “SUBJECT TO YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS” But let’s not let that get in the way of a good torch waving mob.”

    Yeah, the inclusion of that clause seemed pretty significant to me too.

    I can see why there would be concern about the “share a link” part of this for content creators, but it would appear that privacy-conscious users have less to worry about.

    The whole terms of service needs to be brought into line with other content providers (excellent comparison Amanda!), but that clause was actually more comforting to me than the one they reverted to.

  67. As of 1:17 AM, the TOS language has reverted back to the older form. Mark Zuckerberg posted further about the issue on the Facebook blog.

  68. Pingback: jomlr :: Social Media Marketing Solution - Facebook » Blog Archive » Facebook Reverts Terms of Service
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  70. I guess since Facebook claims all rights of the content, one could post illegal material with a fake account and then sue facebook for the said content? They do own the copyrights after all?

    Just a thought.

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  72. Good analysis, but with due respect you’re not addressing the full context of Facebook terms and conditions. For example, there is the following:

    “All content on the Site and available through the Service, including designs, text, graphics, pictures, video, information, applications, software, music, sound and other files, and their selection and arrangement (the “Site Content”), are the proprietary property of the Company, its users or its licensors with all rights reserved. No Site Content may be modified, copied, distributed, framed, reproduced, republished, downloaded, scraped, displayed, posted, transmitted, or sold in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, without the Company’s prior written permission, except that the foregoing does not apply to your own User Content (as defined below) that you legally post on the Site. Provided that you are eligible for use of the Site, you are granted a limited license to access and use the Site and the Site Content and to download or print a copy of any portion of the Site Content to which you have properly gained access solely for your personal, non-commercial use, provided that you keep all copyright or other proprietary notices intact.” I interpret this series of statements to indicate that Facebook DOES recognize that individuals do have rights to their content when it is on the site, but I do acknowledge that they do a mighty fine job of obfuscating this point. They also do not acknowledge that there are commercial entities who use this service to promote their goods in groups and fan pages, so for these entities the term “personal use” is not necessarily applicable. Bottom line, I do think that perhaps too much is being made of this, but certainly Facebook could have done this better and should improve their Terms and Conditions document.

  73. In response to Facebook’s substantive diversion in their TOS as compared to other social networking sites I have removed all of my content from Facebook and will not log in to FB until the TOS has changed. I encourage others to do the same.

    The only message that will resonate with FB is a message involving their wallet – a wallet packed full of advertising dollars. If we do not use the service advertising value diminishes and FB must respond to maintain their business model.

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  76. i dont get whats wrong with them having rights to what we put on facebook. what could they do with it that would hurt me? if i wanna put up incriminating photos etc. then im already allowing those to be public right?

  77. OMG Allison…brains, beauty and brawn (balls)! LOL Thanks sooo much for posting this. I’m gonna post it
    (with proper credit acknowledged!)on the wall of our Resource/Training Room at AICH (Computer training area) It will open quite a few eyes!!!

  78. Hey…Guess I didn’t post correctly…any way my comment is to “THANK YOU” Allison for posting this…
    I’m going to post it in the Resource-Traing Room at AICH (with proper credit acknowledged)..it will open quite a few eyes!

    Yep… you’ve got Beauty, Brains and Brawn…lol

  79. Thanks for posting this… I really appreciate you doing your research and putting it out there so articulately. You absolutely rock!

  80. Thanks for posting, Amanda!

    I’m not surprised at any of the events mentioned here (or in articles and comments posted afterwards)..

    That’s because:

    1- Just coz they said they’d do or not do something (ie ‘not steal our stuff’ or whatnot) doesn’t mean they won’t do it!

    2- Mr Z. said on an interview a while ago that FB needed to find a way to make payroll.. and if anyone remembers the whole CIA 12 million dollar investment into FB that was all over blogs a while back…

    3-Finally, not to be paranoid, but I’m sure every keystroke ever typed by a computer that’s online is saved somewhere, somehow; probably linked to IP and whatnot, as well. As long as we know the limits of what COULD happen and act accordingly…

    Mmm.. ok. ‘Nuff said..


    i made one, ’cause my friend made me. i always knew facebook sucked.
    myspace is so much better, no comparison.

  82. Thank you so much for the research. So many people were sent here, that I believe we brought your server down briefly this week!! Amidst all the shouting, your voice made sense, and gave us all some comparison. I appreciate your intelligent contribution to the fracas.

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  84. MySpace’s claim to remove your content “as soon as practicable” is as strong as Facebook’s non-comment. It might not be practicable to EVER remove your content from MySpace, and there is no upper bound on the amount of time they can take for it to be practicable.

    MySpace is just making you feel good. At least Facebook reverted their terms and is giving a guarantee again.

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  86. Agree with the reaction to the new TOS, but felt the response by Zuckenberg was good. I posted about it on my blog yesterday, along with some tips for Facebook and other companies who may be involved in managing CGM. We’ve done a lot of work in this area, and these companies need to learn to trust their user community a bit more, if they do they can even be leveraged to keep moderation costs down etc.

    Post here: www.tomhcanderson.com/2009/02/18/we-the-people-of-facebook/

    Tom H. C. Anderson
    Managing Partner
    Anderson Analytics, LLC

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  88. Hi, Amanda, and thank you for your article – it is of great help! For me, this Facebook turmoil has been a lesson learned… I have to admit I’ve joined without reading the TOS, and not only Facebook, but also other networks. But even so, when I joined Facebook at least the TOS specified that once I remove and delete my data, and close my account, Facebook will not have the right to use them anymore. The new TOS they tried to impose claimed perpetual rights to the use of our data, even after we left the network. Very ugly behaviour, I’d say. So, I am considering leaving Facebook for good. After reading your material, I realize there is no network who doesn’t claim the right to sub-license our private data or intellectual property! This is not good news, and it means that if we still want to be part of such network, we can only choose the smallest evil of evils…

    Anyway, there is one more thing I wanted to tell you on LinkedIn’s TOS: after reading your article, I went to their site and carefully read the TOS, and I discovered they do not specify that when I close my account, LinkedIn will not retain my private data or intellectual property and will not have the right to use it (read “sub-license” it) anymore! This takes them directly to No 1 in the Top of Bad Guys, I’d say.

    Another thing: take a look what they are imposing us in their DON’T’s: “DON’T upload a cartoon, symbol, drawing or any content other than a photograph of yourself in your profile photo”

    So… they can do whatever they want with my private data, including sub-licensing it, but I am not allowed to NOT put my face on my profile, even if my professional abilities are in no way clouded by my uploading a photo of a spring flower instead of my face!

    I guess I’ll have to seriously consider my need and want to keep a profile in social networks. The very fact that they are thinking of using my data in ways that are not yet discovered but may be in the future, doesn’t sound good to me at all! This is the quote from LinkedIn’s TOS: “License and warrant your submissions: ou do not have to submit anything to us, but if you choose to submit something (including any User generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and data), you must grant, and you actually grant by concluding this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royaltyfree right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, and use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, anything that you submit to us, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.”

    “in any way now known or in the future discovered” Brrr! I think I will just get back to real life, and forget about virtual networks!

    At least until a decent networked is created, whose TOS will be respectful of the law and the people’s rights!

    Thank you for making it possible for us to speak up!

    All the best to you!

  89. Pingback: Youtube » Blog Archive » Amanda L. French, Ph.D. » Blog Archive » Facebook terms of service …
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  96. It makes no sense that Facebook would risk messing up a good thing by edging in on people’s intellectual property. They had people’s trust and then they go and risk losing it; not smart.

  97. The biggest problem with TOS on any web service is the language. There isn’t a new legal language for these services. They still have to use language established pre-web.

    I can see how people read “publish” like publishing a book. But, when it comes to web sites, publishing means rendering the page. Each time I go to a page or refresh that page, that is a publication. If these services didn’t have the right to publish your data, you wouldn’t see anything.

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  99. Hi Amanda

    I think you underestimate the effect of LinkedIn’s license. If you consider the wealth of knowledge in the Q&A section alone, the license has tremendously far reaching effects. Far more profound than the implications for factual profile data.

    After taking a more careful look at LinkedIn’s terms, I believe that the implications for LinkedIn users easily overshadow the implications of Facebook’s retracted (or even current) terms for Facebook users.

  100. Like many, Amanda is a member of all these social networks, as am I (FB & Linkedin). So what does it say about us that we are willing to stick with these social networking sites, knowing the unscrupulous terms they are imposing.

    Why are you still on these sites if you made it this far to review the TOS comparison? I for one use it to network business opportunities. I am particularly concerned about copyright issues with these TOS, being a photographer.

    Has anyone cancelled their accounts?


  101. There are just some people who get claustrophobic when people that run organizations or services suddenly change rules and/or want to maintain the right to materials you create.

    If Facebook was a social network site for business ideas and they changed the rules and wanted the rights to the business ideas that I had been posting/discussing with others then I could see people getting freaked out.

    But Facebook is just a place for people to network socially.

    If you’re one of these people that get claustrophobic with Facebook’s content rights changes then stop using their (free) service and use a social networking site whose content rules you are comfortable with.

    In the meantime Facebook. Enjoy the rights to all of the juicy content I am posting on your site like pictures of my daughters ice skating and hot juicy text of me conversing with my work friends. I hope you make millions off of it. I know I wouldn’t be able to.

  102. Pingback: The Facebook TOS Rebellion « wmrandth
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  104. Hiii

    Very interesting research. I think this story will last the usual 15 minutes and everybody will jump back on Facebook. What do you think?

    Thanks for doing this work, Amanda. Very insightful.
    Ioffersearch.com Blogs – Just another Ioffersearch.com weblog

  105. Great to see this getting some more exposure (and sorry I’m so late to the party). I had particular problems with the share link terms myself when I looked at them a while ago, both the bit you mentioned and this one:

    To include a share link, “the Third Party Site must not contain any web content that if shared or posted by a user would be a violation of the user conduct rules set forth above. Without limiting the forgoing, Online Content Provider agrees not to post a Share Link on any web site that contains, and represents and warrants that such web site does not and will not contain, any content that is infringing, harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, lewd, fraudulent, or invasive of privacy or publicity rights or that may expose Company or its users to any harm or liability of any type.”

    So by putting a share link on one page of your site, you represent that your entire site does not and will never have anything on it that Facebook doesn’t like, or may not like in the future. And this isn’t limited to obvious stuff like child porn and warez: Facebook doesn’t approve of breastfeeding either. Nice.

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  110. Like many, Amanda is a member of all these social networks, as am I (FB & Linkedin). So what does it say about us that we are willing to stick with these social networking sites, knowing the unscrupulous terms they are imposing.

    Why are you still on these sites if you made it this far to review the TOS comparison? I for one use it to network business opportunities. I am particularly concerned about copyright issues with these TOS, being a photographer.

    Has anyone cancelled their accounts?


  111. Hey Russ — not at all a bad question. As I mention in the post, these terms of service apply mainly to the content you post to Facebook; pictures are the chief concern. I have something like three pictures on Facebook, just profile pics. I did think about leaving Facebook, but given that I don’t post much content there and given that I do have a lot of friends there, I decided not to.

    I know of several people who did leave Facebook because of the TOS, including Sasha Frere-Jones, music critic for the New Yorker, and Professor Dan Cohen of George Mason University. But it’s worth noting that the controversy led Facebook to revise its terms — I’ll put an update on the post to that effect.

  112. If I were to delete my face book page tomorrow due to the terms of service, would that mean they own the rights to everything I had on my page? Like pictures? and general information about myself?

  113. It’s okay, I claim ownership of FaceBook and because I own facebook, everybody can have their content back.

    My claims are just as baseless as theirs. I can’t wait to see this go to court for the first time, then the second time…

  114. How safe is your information, photos, etc. (photos in particular) on okcupid.com, tagged.com and dating sites? I’ve read their privacy policies, but they are confusing.

    Thanks so much in advance. I’ve shared your blog with everyone I know!

  115. Чтобы писать такие информативные посты надо хорошо отдыхать. Автор – где вы отдыхаете и как? Поведайте секрет.

  116. Unfortunately, Terms Of Service on Facebook are practically saying that they can do anything they want with your content but in the end it is up to you if you want to use it or not because of that.

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  119. Thanks for the post, would you consider doing an update? I know a lot has changed over the past year.

  120. I dont think that the terms and conditions at facebook are fully secure..there are lot of news recently hacking the profiles at facebook and twitter..even there are lot of fake identities available..we all should be beware of that…

  121. While the Facebook privacy issues are still an issue today a lot of times it comes down to being careful what you post. The biggest thing is that people need to understand what the terms mean, and I think your post does a great job of outlining it. People tend to get upset when they hear these things, but its a matter of reading them ahead of time to know.

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  123. Hi Amanda and Christian (June 7, June 3 2010 )Could you explain briefly how things have changed? DOes FB still claim a right to ownership of FB content even after my account has been closed? I’m looking for a more secure photo and comment sharing website for friends and family who distrust (and aren’t on) facebook . Thinking I should join them, despite enhanced privacy settings. Thanks. Marijke

  124. @ Trent Warnock: Why don’t we all multiple proxy, create accounts at VIMEO, and upload a bunch of Disney movies? Let the thieving scum talk their way out of THAT!

  125. Facebook would have *lots* of problems enforcing picture ToSes were photo ownership not vested with the photo-taker. If such were not the case, they’d have to take down EVERY picture someone posted that contained recognizable images of anyone other than themselves.

  126. After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get four emails with the identical comment. Is there any manner you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

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