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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Posting Legalese On Facebook Won’t Protect You

If you think you’re protecting your photos, check-ins and likes on Facebook by posting a status update, you’re wrong.

A widely circulated copyright law disclaimer that first appeared on social media as early as Oct. 2013 made the rounds again on Facebook this week according to data compiled by social media analysts.

According to the Annenberg Media Social Data Desk, the disclaimer peaked on Monday with around 4,000 posts made in the U.S. At its peak posting in Oct. 2013, it reached around 40,000 in a single day.

The disclaimer states that by posting it publicly, the publisher is staking claim to ownership of all media he or she posts on the site, both past and present. The widespread posting of this status implies that you’ll lose your intellectual property rights by using social media.

Mary Ann Daugherty, manager of a San Diego business development start-up, said her two teenage sons teased her husband for falling prey to the hoax. When asked what she thought her husband was trying to do by posting the disclaimer, she said “I think he was trying to protect our family from having our images distributed without our consent.” 

Valerie Barreiro, Director of the University of Southern California Intellectual Property Law Clinic, said the disclaimer is a hoax. It has no effect on what permissions you grant Facebook when it comes to your photos, videos and posts.

When you click through the terms of use on any social media platform, you are usually granting that site a license to use whatever you publish there as it sees fit, Barreiro said.

The only way to alter the contract you made with Facebook when you accepted its terms of use is to modify your privacy settings.

You can modify privacy settings for previously posted information on Facebook, Barreiro said. Although that change will not apply retroactively, “You are making a change going forward… In connection with that same information as to what can be done from that point forward.”

The full text of the disclaimer, as reported by CBS News, follows below.

“As of [insert date and time here] Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.”

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