Before you upload that school logo to Facebook….

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Facebook, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 02-16-2009


Before you upload that official institution logo to Facebook for your Page or Group, you might want to consider this. is reporting that Facebook’s new Terms of Service (TOS) have had a few minor changes that might have major impact, including Facebook’s ability to sublicense content.

The larger issue at hand for all users of Facebook is the removal of these lines from the TOS:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

This is no longer true, meaning the license granted will no longer expire and your content is Facebook’s and they can essentially do what they want with it. Forever.

How does this affect colleges and universities? One thought: could Facebook come out with a line of clothing with university logos because someone has uploaded it? I’m no legal beagle, but it seems like they’re looking for more ways to monetize and the possibilities are endless.

Comments posted (11)

Yikes! Makes you think doesn’t it?

From @DJLitten on Twitter: I think that existing copyrights will supersede any rights FB has on files. I’d also guess new TOS wouldn’t hold up in court.

Again, I am anything from being knowledgable about the legalities of all this. Just putting it out there for discussion and consideration. :)

I’m gonna say that you are being alarmist on this. Content sublicensing TOS issues are hardly a new deal, and thus far, have never proven to be an issue. Generally, when companies like Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, Google, etc make changes, there is a certain, reasonable logic behind it, and I can’t think of a single instance where it was driven by a “how can we screw the user” mentality (at least when it comes to a “major player” web organization).

Facebook in particular is a trusted entity in the websphere now, and trust is easily lost. They know that, and the likelihood they’d jeopardize it over something like this is nonexistant. The idea that they would use this kind of license to override university/company’s tradmarks and copyrights is laughable at best. So far, I’m not familiar with any legal precedent that would support such a case in the first place, and the money they’d lose fighting to try for it would only hurt and discredit them beyond repair.

Should they put the lines back? Probably. Because it’s a trust issue. I’d even lay money down that if this blows up, they’ll do just that, or at least make a layman’s clarification on the change that will make everyone understand. But the idea that they have some nefarious money-making scheme behind it is ridiculous.

@Fienen I think it’s certainly worth questioning their efforts. If we all sat back and let them do whatever they wanted without ever raising question, then what would they do without us knowing or caring? Just a thought. You’re right, it’s probably nothing, but implications should still be considered as Universities continue to learn to lose control on the web.

True…If you say nothing and let FB or MySpace, or whoever, go ahead and continue to edit their user policy as they will, sometime in the future you could very well be handcuffed. True, they are trusted and I don’t think would do anything nefarious with the images but if you don’t say anything and NOT let them know that you are watching and concerned, then you’ll have a harder time in the future.

Seems like this allows them to keep your deactivated profile on tap, rather than just deleting it when you go away for good, unless you ask them to. And just because they can retain an archived copy, doesn’t mean they can use it for anything other than say, law enforcement wanting it for some reason.

I highly doubt they want to do anything more than that or that, like your Twitterer said, that existing copyrights wouldn’t supercede any “right” they’d have to existing copyright.

Colleges and universities have lots of reasons to be wary of thefacebook, but this isn’t really one of them to get out of the pool before they get in.


Any lawyers in the crowd? Seems to me that facebook would be hard pressed to monetize your school logo w/out the express consent of the org. Otherwise they’re violating your copyright (me thinks).

To that point, facebooks seems to make it pretty clear that user content’s owned by the user. Found this in their term’s ‘Ownership; proprietary rights’ section:

Except for User Content and Applications/Connect Sites, all materials, content and trademarks on the Facebook Service are the property of Facebook and/or its licensors and are protected by all relevant IP laws and other proprietary rights (including copyright, trademark, trade dress and patent laws) and any other applicable laws.

Would love to hear a lawyer’s take on this…

There is already a Facebook group protesting these changes to Facebook’s TOS:

I’ve been hearing about this Facebook policy a lot lately and it is important to consider the implications for all users. I would say that most colleges and universities probably have the appropriate trademarks or copyrights for images or graphics that they place in their social media assets. However, this should be a wake up call for those who do not!

I’m really not at all sure how this policy change is advantageous to Facebook or the reasoning for it. I think we’ll continue to hear about it though in different forums and about the possible implications for different user groups.

This is interesting as our college is in the plans to create a Facebook presence. I’ve always been somewhat concerned about Web 2.0 companies like Google and Facebook that provide services for free. The little voice in the back of my head says, ‘be careful’, but the services are so useful and cool that I throw caution to the wind. It is wise to be mindful of these changes and unfortunately, not many people read the TOS or other license information.

Interesting blog, not like the others! This is the kind of information people expect from all blogs

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