Another “Facebook is out to get you” hoax

Once again, there’s been a flurry of urgent posts from Facebook friends encouraging people to assert their copyright and forbid Facebook from using or selling material they post on Facebook.

You’ve probably seen some variation of this:

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

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws.)…

First of all, this is a hoax. Second, I have news for you all: while the internet is public space, owned by no one, Facebook is not. Just my two cents. The entire Facebook environment — the posts, the conversations, the shares and likes — all exist within a virtual territory owned by a for-profit company. You chose to join. You can be annoyed that since Facebook has become the de facto place for keeping up with friends, you have no choice but to use it, but you can’t really complain that they make the rules.

Unless you want the government to be the sole provider of a Facebook-like equivalent. And that would come with much greater concerns.

The Internet is like the technology of printing — invented by a few, owned altogether by no one, executed locally by many. Facebook is like printing articles in the paper, expressing opinions on the op-ed page and carrying on conversations on the community bulletin board page. You’re choosing to communicate there, but the ink and paper belong to the newspaper, and they make money selling ads next to your stuff and reprinting it. The analogy isn’t perfect, but you get the idea.

When you send an email, there is an expectation and limited right of privacy. When you write a post on your wall, that has always been understood to be different.

If people want to push the government to restrict Facebook in how it can manage its space, things could change, but in the meantime, if you don’t like the way they run their business (which remember includes providing the service free to you) then you can simply not use it. Email and chat with friends. Personally I’m using Facebook because, a) I find the service incredibly valuable, and b) I am not particularly concerned with what they might do. Why is it so upsetting to people that their buying patterns might be known? Or that something they shared with hundreds for free might be shared with thousands more for free. It seems the issue is more that people feel like their information is being stolen than any real concern with its use. But again, it’s not being stolen; it’s being bartered away in exchange for the service that is Facebook. That’s the deal. It works for me.

[PS-I love the image I used as the art for this piece. I don’t know who created it. It’s all over the internet, so I can’t give credit to its creator, which they deserve.]

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