Q: Who Owns Content Posted on Facebook? A: You Do, BUT…

Facebook’s rules (revised last year, on November 15, 2013) say that you, the Facebook user, own the content that you post.  Sounds simple, BUT: the user also grants Facebook permission to use that content anyway that Facebook desires:  “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”.

The license can be limited by the user’s privacy settings, but those settings mostly limit the user’s audience (e.g., do you want to share with Friends or Everyone?) rather than limit the license.  Essentially, Facebook – and any other person or company to whom Facebook may sub-license the content – can use, for free, whatever the user posts, regardless of copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights (such as the right of publicity, which each person owns in his or her name or likeness).

The good news is that each user can terminate this license when the user deletes content or the account.  BUT: the user cannot delete content that was shared with other users, who may not have deleted the content.  And, as we all know (and as party-goers ‘round the world are reminded), content, especially embarrassing content, can live forever.

As a practical matter, Facebook is not likely to use this license to re-package and sell a book, album, or feature length film made of any user’s brilliant photographs, tunes or writing – at least, not directly – because it’s too big to delve into the user’s minutiae.  BUT: indirectly, the social media giant earns from unfettered access to whatever is posted, so it makes money from your free content.

The moral of the story:  Keep track of what you share.  If you want to share it for free, forever (for example, for your own marketing purposes), you’re in the right place.  But if you want to get paid for it, don’t share it on Facebook. To enforce your IP rights, you can contact www.kaufmankahn.com or kaufman@kaufmankahn.com.