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Copyright Warnings on Facebook Are Just a Hoax

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

If you’ve been seeing your friends on Facebook posting copyright “warnings” everywhere, just ignore them.

A number of Facebook users have taken to posting these warnings on their Facebook pages, out of fear that Facebook will start using the pictures and content they’ve posted against their will. However, it’s just a hoax. To put it bluntly, Facebook users signed the rights to their content away when they joined Facebook in the first place.

“In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional 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!”

You may have seen that very message pop up — perhaps time and time again — in your Facebook feed. The message has been making the rounds on the social network. It encourages people to copy and paste the text and post it on their own walls if they want to be placed “under protection of copyright laws.”

It’s a frightful message and those worried that Facebook will own their photos or other media are posting it — unaware that it is a hoax. Here’s the truth: Facebook doesn’t own your media and there is no such thing as the Berner Convention. (There is a Berne Convention!)

“We have noticed some statements that suggest otherwise and we wanted to take a moment to remind you of the facts — when you post things like photos to Facebook, we do not own them,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement. “Under our terms (https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms, you grant Facebook permission to use, distribute, and share the things you post, subject to the terms and applicable privacy settings.”

Brad Shear, a Washington-area attorney and blogger who is an expert on social media, said the message was “misleading and not true.” He said that when you agree to Facebook’s terms of use you provide Facebook a ”non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any content you post. You do not need to make any declarations about copyright issues since the law already protects you.  The privacy declaration [in this message] is worthless and does not mean anything.”

Snopes.com has also verified that this copyright warning is a hoax, and has no bearings on what Facebook does with your pictures.

So the bottom line is this: technically speaking, Facebook does not own your content. Instead, what they have is a royalty-free license to use your content however they want. And for some, that may be just as bad as Facebook owning the content themselves.

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