Deconstructing the Facebook Privacy Notice – Copyright and Privacy Protection
Among the many “urban legends” that go viral on Facebook, there is one of particular interest to the IP community. A few years ago when the Facebook privacy concerns first started, a couple of people decided to rid themselves of such threats by passing a declaration to the effect that the content posted on their profiles were under copyright protection and that Facebook had no authority to give out this content without their permission. This notice was posted on their profiles and was filled with legalese that didn’t have any effect at all. The internet was quick to pounce on this and point out the folly in posting such a declaration. The number of posts reduced with time and had nearly vanished, when all of a sudden Facebook decided to go public with its company. Troll mills on the internet began weaving another notice. The notice read like this:
“…. I declare, to whom it may concern, and in particular to the administrator of the company Facebook, my author rights which are related to all my personal information, comments, texts, articles, illustrations, comics, paintings, photos, professional videos and other publications in electronic format that I spread on this site under my signature. The above on the basis of the principle enshrined in the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works, as well as with regard to the respective national copyright law. For commercial use of the aforementioned items, always must be by my written consent. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. These prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents or members of any team, under the direction or control of Facebook. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308 – 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). Note: Facebook is now a public entity….”
This was a post in July of 2013. There have been a number of similar posts on Facebook which can be found here.
Breaking it down
The internet was at it again. Quick to debunk the notice as nothing but a lot of legalese with no effect. Despite the obvious flaws in the notice, the premise behind the notice however, is quite interesting and is worth observing. The effects of such a strategy in the implementation of copyright law to achieve privacy protection is quite ingenious indeed. The implications of this would be that any transfer of information on the part of Facebook that was not authorised by the user would amount to actionable infringement on the part of Facebook.
In my opinion, the only argument that can be raised is that such a declaration amounts to a material alteration in the contract of license between Facebook and the user. However, the effect of this would be to terminate the original agreement (S. 62 of the Indian Contract Act) rendering the user liable to have his Facebook account removed as it was only provided with a valid agreement in place.
In short, don’t bother posting the notice to protect your privacy on Facebook.