Facebook and the share link – why they still own us forever

After electronically boring poor Laura Oliver to tears yesterday about Facebook, and then waking up this morning to discover they’ve revoked their terms because of the furore, I thought I’d make use of the thousands of words I’ve written as a post.

First, I can see the argument that legally Facebook needs to be licensed to use your content even if you close your account so that people you’ve shared things with (who may then have shared them with other people) still have access to them. For Facebook to promise that if you left, everything you’d ever posted would be removed from the profiles/groups you posted them to (and then from all the other profiles they’ve shared them with), would be a bit ludicrous.

Second, I may be naive but I don’t think being able to package and reuse our content is the reason Facebook have rewritten their terms. I think lawyerspeak makes it sound worse than it is. Amanda French’s post about the comparison with other sites shows that they could have rephrased to mean basically the same thing but sound less threatening about it. (although I don’t think she’d agree that’s what she’s demonstrated!)

Third: as a newspaper, we WANT people to share our content. The point of us being on Facebook is to get people to share our content, so that the generation of people who’ve never read the paper or think it’s irrelevant to them will start to make us part of their lives.

Facebook has thousands of Bournemouth users. Only 24 of them are friends with us so far. Most of them don’t use our site.

We can only get them interested in what we do by being where they are. We want them to share our content among themselves and with their friends. To build a community – people who will then use us as (one of) their news providers – we have to engage with them and stop assuming that we have a right to their attention

Once you’re encouraging sharing, you can’t really then turn round and stop people using your stuff. How can you police it? And if they’re crediting you, why would you, when it’s free distribution to an audience you wouldn’t have thought about reaching? (obviously I’m not an idiot: this is subject to copyright and the ‘linking to’ proviso…)

We have had occasions where reviews (our McFly review was a prime example) get cut and pasted onto fan forums and all the traffic goes there. How do we get round that? By having other stuff (video, audio) on our site that will pull some of that traffic over to us.

But fourth, and most importantly: we have a ‘share on facebook’ link on all our stories. Now let’s just look at what the old TOS say about share links, shall we?

By including a Share Link, Online Content Provider automatically grants, and represents and warrants that it has the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide licence (with the right to sub-licence) to use the Share Service in order to link to, use, copy, publish, stream, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part), summarise and distribute the content, links and other materials of any kind residing on any web pages on which Online Content Provider places the Share Link.

Now unless all newspaper groups are planning on taking this link off their sites, there’s not a lot of point getting hot under the collar about the new TOS.

Note – I don’t think this is designed so Facebook can steal our stuff. I think it’s badly worded legalese that covers them for all the ways people access FB and how it packages content. But I could be wrong….

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One thought on “Facebook and the share link – why they still own us forever

  1. Adrian Short says:

    I take your point about going where the audience is (eg. Facebook) but if you don’t get paid when your content is shared on other networks it’s not going to benefit you directly. It will indirectly, to a degree. It depends whether people are sharing links back to your site or the whole of your content.

    Good point on McFly, etc. in having hard-to-c&p content that people will just link back to. This sort of thing is impossible to police for a one-off, non-local audience, but how about encouraging local bloggers and other people to take up your content by using a Creative Commons by-nd-nc license?

    As fun as Facebook can be, I’d be wary of getting too close to a platform that’s entirely closed and obviously a law unto itself.

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