Your Intellectual Property Is Already Protected on Facebook, So Quit It With the Quasi-Legalese Status Update

facebookThe internet can be a tricky place when it comes to protecting one’s intellectual property, but hoaxes can spread just as fast as stolen photos.

The latest in a round of fake “copyright” claims went around Facebook in early December, claiming that Facebook would steal the rights to users’ photos, status updates, and other creations on the site unless they reposted a status that would “forbid” the social media giant from claiming the works as their own.

Among the imitation legalese in the status update were statements citing phony conventions and laws that already protect users.

For instance, one variation of the status reads, “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).”

But as Gawker pointed out, there is no such thing as the Berner Convention. There is, however, a Berne Convention, which governs copyright in every country and mandates that copyright is automatic — meaning that a status update such as this one is useless, and that these works are already protected by international law as soon as they are created.

Similar status updates went viral on Facebook in 2012, and they appear just about every time Facebook updates its privacy policies or terms of use.

So does a status update change anything about how users control their information on the site?

Experts say no. In fact, the protections that these hoax statuses claim to provide are already given to users in Facebook’s Terms of Service: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”

Facebook does have a license to use and display your content, such as a profile picture, but they don’t own the copyright to it. In other words, they can place your profile picture around the site to show other users “someone they might know,” but they can’t use the picture in just any way they please.

As one professor who spoke to the Huffington Post put the issue, users can’t post a bunch of vaguely “law-sounding words” on their Facebook timelines in the same way that office workers can’t post an announcement on their doors changing the number of hours they work.

In short, these status updates don’t offer any protection that users don’t already have, and by using the site, they’ve already agreed to abide by the site’s rules anyway. A reposted statement does nothing to change how the site operates.