There’s a meme going around on Facebook, saying that you should post a certain legal incantation on your Facebook wall, to reclaim certain rights that Facebook would otherwise be taking from you. There’s an interesting counter-meme in the press now, saying that all of this is pointless and of course you can’t change your rights just by posting a statement on a website. Both memes have something to teach us about perceptions of rights and responsibilities online.
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.
The other part of the user meme is more interesting: the idea that by posting a statement on your wall you can claw back copyright rights that you would otherwise have granted to Facebook. This has been dismissed by many commentators as naive–and they might be right–but I think we should look more carefully at it. Some commentators claim that it’s ridiculous to say that merely posting words on a website, where somebody has the ability to read them, can create a binding agreement. But of course users are told all the time that the existence of a statement on a website does constitute an agreement.
Now, I’m not claiming that this kind of copyright statement does change the user’s rights. All I’m saying is that it’s not ridiculous for a user to think it might. So let’s skip the scornful denunciations of the popular copyright statement, and talk instead about what does make a unilateral statement enforceable, and what should.
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