Facebook and PPA Talk Copyright

Facebook found itself in hot water in early February 2009 after stating it would continue to hold a usage license on artistic works posted to its pages—even after the owner of those works deleted them from the site or closed his account. A public outcry elicited a quick about-face from the company. The following day, Facebook issued a statement clearly articulating that its license to use posted images expires when users delete them from the site or close their account.

In a letter sent to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, PPA stressed the importance of adhering to U.S. copyright laws and explained that copyright protection is integral to the livelihood of professional photographers. Facebook was receptive to PPA's involvement and requested our feedback on the latest version of their proposed "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities." We submitted our comments and suggestions to Facebook in late March, and now we're watching and waiting to see what develops.

Why is this “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” so important for photographers? It’s easy to see why when you realize that the majority of Facebook's 175 million users post photographs, and many pro photographers incorporate Facebook in their marketing plans.

As content-sharers on Facebook, users give the site a license to distribute and display their work. When any user (including a professional photographer) posts an image to the site, he hasn't given away rights to that image—he’s simply allowed Facebook to show and share it. Facebook does not assume ownership of the work posted.

With the volume of online content sharing, PPA understands any website owner's desire for protection when handling copyrighted creations. That's why Facebook asks photographers to grant usage licenses for the images posted on its site.

Whenever someone views your images on your web pages or a communal site, or when an image you created is queued up in a search, it qualifies as a reproduction of your work. Facebook is bound to ensure that you, as a site user, agree to the display and distribution of your images within its online community.

Content-sharing website owners will also use their terms of service statement to help content creators manage their copyrights. Facebook, for example, requires users to affirm that they've obtained permission to use any information or creative works they post to the site. Further, Facebook provides information on its adherence to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the procedures copyright owners can easily follow to get infringed works quickly removed from the site.

Based on what we've seen so far, you'll be pleased to know that Facebook has made strides to accommodate photographers, and all copyright owners, who actively maintain Facebook accounts. We'll keep you posted on any new developments as our conversation with Facebook continues.

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