You Can Ignore Your Friend's Facebook Status About Copyright

A viral Facebook post has no legal power.

Update: Facebook responded to the viral status in a “Fact Check” update on their newsroom page:

There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users’ information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been

Original: Scrolling through your Facebook news feed this weekend, you may have noticed several friends reposting the same status about Facebook’s rights to their posted information. They needn’t have bothered spamming you: the viral status update is a hoax, according to several news sites. The update (of which there are a few versions floating around – we’ve just pulled one from our Facebook timeline) begins like this:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

At this point you are presumably thinking, “Ugh, I stopped reading Gizmodo during my food coma this weekend. What are these Facebook guidelines?” You are probably also thinking, “I should really take up painting.” Anyway the message continues,

By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

At this point you are thinking, “Wow, those are some big words and some Very Serious Sounding legal citations.” The message continues,

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version…

And here we come to the wonderful obscurity of the passive voice. “All members are recommended…” Who is the shadowy figure doing the recommending?

Mythbusting website persuasively explains that the Facebook status you copy-pasted from your friend is about as useful as wiring all that money to a Nigerian prince. Facebook users agreed to the network’s terms and conditions when they created an account. (It’s that thing you pretended you read in full before checking a box) This is an agreement that cannot be undone by copy-pasting your best bro’s Facebook status. Snopes writes:

Facebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their Facebook accounts nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted by Facebook simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls. Moreover, the fact that Facebook is now a publicly traded company (i.e., a company that has issued stocks which are traded on the open market) or a “capital entity” has nothing to do with copyright protection or privacy rights.

What’s the best sign we’ve seen that this Facebook status is useless? This isn’t even the first time it’s gone viral on the social network. Slate’s David Sydiongco debunked it half a year ago in June, for instance, when Facebook’s IPO revived interest in its privacy policies. “Additionally, the Uniform Commercial Codes cited at the end of the post, “UCC 1-103 1-308” is completely unrelated to privacy or social networking, making its inclusion irrelevant,” he added. This sounds like the kind of hoax that only a well-educated privacy expert would find fun to watch. (“Look at the uneducated masses, posting things we made up,” they’ll say.) For the rest of us, it’s just mildly confusing and gums up our news feeds.

This latest revival of the viral Facebook copyright status is probably loosely related to Facebook’s recent proposed changes to its site governance. If you’d like to post something original, feel free to give them feedback on the changes here. (Most people are just copy-pasting our new favorite status update to the comments, though.)