Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Why I Issued A DMCA Takedown Notice To Facebook

One of my photos has been posted on Facebook, and while I’m happy people are enjoying the photo, and that it allowed me to reconnect with some long lost friends (or just misplaced perhaps?), I have had to make a formal request to Facebook for the photo to be taken down, due to copyright violation. And that makes me rather unhappy.

The Good

Terri O’Hare was discussing something about epilepsy on Twitter, specifically someone was saying the name needed to change. We started talking about disability vocabulary and I pointed her to my "Wheelchair bound? I don’t think so!" post. She obviously liked the photo, as she posted it on her Facebook account.

Photo of a man tied with thick rope to his wheelchair
The photo in question.

It created great hillarity in the Facebook disability community, which is most excellent. I connected with some people I knew of, but had never met. I also reconnected with people I hadn’t spoken to since my days of advocacy in Chicago, IL. This is really great stuff, and shows the power of social networking.

The Bad

Unfortunately, Facebook’s Terms, which they call Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, says:

  1. Sharing Your Content and Information

    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. In addition:

    1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
    2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

In other words, anything posted to Facebook becomes their property to do with as they please.

But it gets worse than that. I embedded a copyright statement in the JPEG’s file info. Facebook has STRIPPED all EXIF data and embedded data from the image, including copyright attribution! This is not a new problem. PlagiarismToday.com wrote about it a year ago: Facebook, Flickr Strip Copyright Data from Images (thanks for the link Terri). At least, Flickr doesn’t claim copyright for themselves.

All content on this site belongs to me. I allow people to use the content for their own use, as long as it is non-commercial, personal use, and all copyright is retained. This is stated in the Terms of Use of the site:

Limited Licence

You are granted a non-exclusive, non-transferable, revocable license to:

  • access and use the website strictly in accordance with this ToU;
  • use this website solely for internal, personal, non-commercial purposes; and
  • print out discrete information from the website solely for internal, personal, non-commercial purposes and provided that you maintain all copyright and other policies contained therein.

This means that Terri did NOT breach the terms of the site. However, because of Facebook’s policies, my copyright is being breached.

The Implications

The problem is that now that my photo lives on the Facebook servers, they could use it in any publication or website they run. They could also, should they chose to do so, sell my image to a third party. Ok, so it might be unlikely that they would, but they *could* do it.

The other thing is that even if Facebook doesn’t use or sell the image, people can grab the photo and repost it in other places. That in and of itself isn’t too bad, but since Facebook stripped all copyright and attribution information, I have effectively lost that photo.

I have no desire whatsoever to let *anyone* profit from my image nor my work.

Hence, I have had to issue a DMCA Takedown notice to Facebook. They make it easy, there’s an automated form to submit. But I have no idea if they will do it. Nor how long it will take before they do.

The problem is, even if Terri were to remove the photo, which she graciously offered to do, the file would still live on the Facebook servers. And if it’s on their server, they can claim it as theirs. Not. Good. At. All.

Last Words

I’m sure some of you will not get the fuss. But many of you will. Considering Facebook is one of the biggest image repository (if not the biggest) on the internet, it is angering to realise that they are claiming for their own all these images. I have been really careful not to post photos on Facebook for that very reason.

At the end of the day, what Facebook is doing is theft. Legal theft, as their terms and conditions have to be read and agreed to before signing up. After that it’s up to the user to be careful.

Anyway, that is why I’ve asked the photo to be taken down.

4 thoughts on “Why I Issued A DMCA Takedown Notice To Facebook

  1. The further irony is Facebook responded to the furor over this issue by retracting the clause about them owning everying posted to the site.

    Very sneaky.

  2. Change your T&C forbidding posting to 3rd party sites? In other words, OK to put on your OWN blog, but not on FB or any other image hosting service.

    Or linking to the original only.

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