Yet another Facebook legal hoax

Since yesterday, a blog post I wrote about a Facebook privacy hoax has been getting a surprisingly large number of hits, so I assumed that the hoax was making the rounds. It is, but this is a slightly different version. This one is even more laughable than the old one:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).

For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws, By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.

This is completely and entirely a legal fabrication with no validity whatsoever. Where to begin? Firstly is the fact that there is no such a thing as the Berner Convention (it’s the Berne Convention). In fact, the Berne Convention does the opposite to what is stated, it doesn’t require people to assert their rights, copyright protection is automatic on all original works. As someone once said, it flows from the nib to the page (or from the keyboard to the screen).

Secondly, it’s not true that FB needs to obtain continuing permission to commercially use its user’s content. I refer you to the site’s Terms and Conditions, those nobody ever reads but that bind user’s relationship with the site. These clearly state that all content uploaded belongs to the person who created it (again, it must meet local originality tests for copyright protection), and the user grants FB a licence to use that content. The licence reads:

“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.”

If you are a Facebook user and do not like the above terms, the solution is easy, delete the account and stop using Facebook, the licence is terminated once content is deleted.

As with the Privacy Hoax, there is a mention to the ever-present section 1-308 of the US Unified Commercial Code (UCC), which has nothing at all to do with copyright or privacy, and it doesn’t give anyone any special legal powers. This is particularly annoying because the UCC only works in American jurisdictions. The mention of the Rome Statute is another interesting addition to make the hoax sound more international. Needless to say, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has nothing to do with copyright or privacy either.

As with all good chain letters, the closing admonishes users that they most perpetuate the post, or dire consequences will befall you. No wonder the statement has gone viral.

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