The internets are exploding today over news that Facebook has changed it’s Terms of Service to reflect their claim to worldwide, non-exclusive rights to any photos or videos that users upload, even after the users have deleted their FB accounts.
IANAL, but this means almost nothing and everyone needs to chill out. First of all, YouTube (and several other social networks) has had something very similar in its TOS agreement forever. It’s standard operating procedure for this sort of site. That by itself doesn’t make it innocuous, but it puts this sudden flare up of indignation into some perspective. Many of you FB users also have YouTube accounts and your content still felt like your content yesterday. Today is no different.
What does it mean?
Basically, FB is saying it retains the right to keep archival copies of your content on its servers even after you terminate your FB account, though importantly, it’s no longer saying that their rights to distribute your content expire after you delete your profile.
Why are they keeping your stuff?
They probably aren’t. Most language like this exists to cover their butts, legally. A lawyer probably told them to include this language to avoid potential legal kerfuffles, not to finagle some way to steal all of your photos and videos. FB doesn’t want to steal your photos. FB doesn’t care about your photos. FB only cares about protecting itself from liability.
What are your rights?
As with any TOS agreement, you cannot be compelled to give up your legal rights by clicking the “accept” button. If FB included language in the TOS stating that you grant them the authority to empty your bank account, and then they did it, they would still be stealing, despite your having clicked “accept.”
Egregious TOS agreements and EULAs are unfortunately common on the intertubes and thick, over-reaching legalese is mock-worthy, but you are not in any more danger of having your content stolen today than you were yesterday.
The EFF has a guide to EULAs, but it pertains more to license agreements for purchased wares than free social networks. You can search Boing Boing for relevant posts and learn a ton. When in doubt, send FB an email including the Reasonable Agreement EULA. That’ll show ‘em.
Again, IANAL, and I welcome any actual expert opinions on this.
UPDATE: CNET reports that Facebook has clarified its position on all of this, saying, in effect, “everyone chill out, Bill’s right.”