A photo I posted on FB before I knew they could use my photographs.

SPECIAL NOTE: PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE DATE OF THIS ARTICLE: in 2011! I receive a lot of hits on this article; be sure to understand FB has changed their terms of service more than once since then. Please refer to FB’s Terms of Service for up to date information. I keep this article up because their curatorial powers are still worth discussing, though I think many operate from a place of fear when it comes to this topic.


You have just been on an amazing vacation.  You took wonderful photographs and made many memories.  The logical next step, of course, wis to share it with all of your Facebook friends.  Immediately you use your iPhoto uploader to Facebook application and include as many photos as possible to share your experience, or maybe to brag, take your pick.  Well, have you ever thought of how Facebook gets to see and use those photographs?

Lately there is often talk of privacy concerns and Facebook (FB): what you post, who can see it, etc.  Many employers use it as a tool to help them identify strong and weak candidates (regretting those documented keg stands now?).  The discussion seems to end, however, once people know how to change their privacy ratings to suit their own personal taste and needs.  But no one seems to realize any of the photos you post, you grant Facebook FREE LICENSE to use those photos, within Facebook, however FB chooses.  Doesn’t that make you a tiny bit uncomfortable?  Yes, depending on your privacy setting certain people cannot see your images, but FB can use them in advertisements directed at your friends who share similar privacy settings.

Did you also know FB has the right to remove images it deems inappropriate?  Funny how many drinking improprieties I still see posted on people’s pages… yet instead of removing those, Art schools and artists are having their art work removed from posts on their pages.  Take for example, The New York Academy of Art.  It is an established, reputable institution that celebrates the figural arts.  They select artwork from students at the school and periodically post their artwork.  Not all, but some of the figural works they post, are nudes.  Recently, FB actually blocked the account of the entire school for including artworks people would see the world over in museums (see article in NY Times to read more).

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but with the force and influence of FB comes curatorial control.  Is this something we really want FB to dictate?  What does it say that a prestigious school cannot post a few photos of traditional artwork in a culture that celebrates animal carcasses used as artist media?

I began reading through FB Intellectual Property information and I have included it below for your reference.  I highlighted points I found most key:

(Click here to see the entire section of Intellectual Property.)

FAQ Intellectual Property on Facebook

Do I retain the copyright and other legal rights to material I upload to Facebook?

Yes, you retain the copyright to your content. When you upload your content, you grant us a license to use and display that content.

From Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

  • Sharing Your Content and Information You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: 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 (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  3. When you use an application, your content and information is shared with the application.  We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.  (To learn more about Platform, read our Privacy Policy and Platform Page.)
  4. When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
  5. We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).

As an artist, I will no longer share any of my photos via Facebook.  Even my family trips or travel excursions.   And I worry that photos I use on my blog posts, which may be advertised on FB, are also be at risk of being used.  Personally I have very little interest in sharing my hard work and precious memories with a rich social network, getting richer by the minute.  Isn’t FB already getting enough money from us to use our own images to drive advertisements and other financial endeavors?  If I don’t like it, I can leave, you say.  But don’t you think FB, like any large institutional structure, should learn and adjust its practices to the needs of its public rather than the other way around?

FB does have a policy to address concerns of copyright infringement that everyone should learn about.  FB also offers potential infringers the chance to argue against the removal of their images.  These actions and strategies to combat infringement focus more on other FB users’ use of images versus FB’s rights to images.  Click here to learn more.

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How does Facebook’s role in the arts (unintended but real) affect you?  Are there other social networks who share the same intellectual property rules?  What would be a positive take on the intellectual property rights of FB?  Share with our readers so we can all become more informed.