The Facebook TOS debacle: You probably don't care

Today, Consumerist made a big splash in certain geeky communities by identifying a passage that’s been removed from the Facebook terms of service agreement. Now, Facebook asserts the perpetual, non-exclusive right to any content you post on the site, even if you [or they] delete your account.

I’m actually one of those geeks who reads TOS agreements. I think I’ve read them for every major social network/content site I use. I don’t agree with all the provisions in all of them, but so far, I’ve been willing to agree to them legally, because the benefits of using the services have outweighed my disagreements with their legal positions.

The reality is outlined nicely by my Twitter friend Eyebee, however. Most people just don’t care.

…most people aren’t even going to read about it, and most that do won’t understand the implications, or even care about it anyway.

If you still care
I found a great analysis of the whole situation over at Mashable. It’s worth reading and understanding–and it makes a decent guess at Facebook’s motivation.

My thought here is that both points are relevant. Most people don’t care, but this situation clearly highlights an issue that we haven’t yet figured out the right way to resolve legally.

The real problem
Copyright law and digital rights management simply haven’t kept up with technology. I’m not one to advocate more regulation and legislation, particularly in this area–frankly, I think most in Congress understand less about the implications of our print-based copyright law on the Internet than most 22-year-olds at this point. I’m trying hard to think of something Congress has done about copyright recently that I liked. Hmm. Still thinking.

But situations like this one at Facebook–where posting content from various sources, and allowing it to be shared on various destinations–simply aren’t covered by existing law. And so we’re going to continue having these copyright and licensing issues for a long time.

Update: The Industry Standard gets the scoop from Facebook, who’s now also blogging about the TOS issue.

My final point: Facebook may CLAIM it intends to play nice here. And I suspect it does. But the new TOS agreement allows it not to.

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  1. What you shouldn’t learn from the Facebook TOS incident | Creekmore Consulting - February 19, 2009

    […] this week, Facebook released a new terms of service agreement, which appeared to give Facebook perpetual, non-exclusive copyright to anything you post […]

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