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Does the Facebook 'copyright declaration' actually mean anything?

Even though people might not want to admit it, social media sites like Facebook are a major part of their day, often being the first thing they do when they get up and the last thing they do before they go to bed.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with regularly posting photos, reading comments "liking" a particular news article or updating your status, it's important not to become too overly possessive of your Facebook profile.

For example, chances are very good you've recently seen someone post something on their profile asserting that while Facebook would otherwise own all of their posted content -- words, photos, videos, assorted data, etc. -- their posted notice serves to expressly forbid the social media juggernaut from taking or using any of their content without their permission.

Indeed, the notice may even include references to such legally imposing phrases as "articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property," and sometimes even the "Berner Convention."

As impressive as this may seem, legal experts are informing users that there is no need whatsoever to post this meaningless notice, which is nothing more than a hoax that seems to reappear every few years.

Indeed, Facebook itself recently published a statement reassuring users that their content belongs solely to them:

"Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been."

What about the legally imposing terms used in the notices?

According to at least one law professor at the University of Arizona, the references to "articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property" make little sense given that 1) they don't actually reference any existing body of law and 2) Facebook's terms of service are governed by Title 17 of the U.S. Code.

As for the reference to the "Berner Convention," this seems to be an attempt to invoke the Berne Convention, an actual international treaty governing copyright law.  But this reference provides no additional weight or effectiveness to the notice.  

Finally, recall that having agreed to Facebook's terms of service, a user can't just change that agreement by issuing a "notice," whether it accurately references copyright law or not.

If you would like to learn more about copyright or trademark law, trade secret protection or other intellectual property issues, consider speaking with an experienced and highly skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

Sources: The Huffington Post, "That 'copyright' Facebook status is useless and absurd. Stop posting it.," Alexis Kleinman, Dec, 2, 2014; Tech 2, " Facebook copyright declaration: Nothing but a hoax and also meaningless," Dec. 1, 2014

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