Over the past few days, a post concerning copyright claims began making the rounds on Facebook, presumably written in response to the news that Facebook would no longer be letting its users vote on site policies
. This announcement arrived with the news that Facebook would also be combining profiles across various other services like Instagram
The message was a convoluted wordpile of misinformation that referenced non-applicable laws
, when not misspelling potentially applicable terms ("BerneR
Convention," anyone?). It read like a bad chain letter (is there any other kind?), encouraging Facebook users to repost it as their status in order to "protect" their "copyright" on their uploaded content. Here's the my-stuff-is-mine! post in all its glory:
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, 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, By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).
Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.
Needless to say, the above statement does nothing
to keep Facebook from using uploaded content according to its existing terms of service. Not only that, but the legal terminology thrown around like so much careless set dressing is all wrong. For one, the Berne
Convention makes it unnecessary to "declare" your copyright. It makes that protection automatic. The privacy law referenced has nothing to do with privacy and the Rome Statute established a world court in Hague. All in all, it's a lot of words that do nothing but sound important and vaguely threatening.
The simple fact that this semi-viral post is completely wrong shows how colossally screwed up our current copyright system is. People are still under the impression that copyright needs to be "declared" (usually with the © symbol). Many also seem to think that if they "declare" copyright and trot out a million limitations, everyone approaching their copyrighted content is obliged to follow every stipulation. Facebook users are picking up the clues that maximalists are dropping and cobbling together legal-sounding threats with nothing behind them. What Facebook users really
want isn't the same thing maximalists want. Behind this flawed statement is the feeling that Facebook "gave" users a place to share their photos, etc. with friends and family, but now it wants to turn uploaded content into marketing tools.
Leave it to a maximalist to misunderstand what's really going on here. MPAA chairman Chris Dodd has cranked out a response to this bit of malformed Facebook-jamming
that completely misses the point.
At a time when personal and artistic content is just a click away, copyright protection is more important than ever.
The Facebook incident demonstrates that the average Internet user recognizes this fact, especially when they feel their personal content -- photos, videos, ideas, etc. -- is in jeopardy. But it also provides average Internet users with some insight into the point of view of the creators of movies, music or other artistic endeavors whose work has been subject to online theft.
But this has nothing to do with what Dodd calls "theft." The mangled, defensive cry of "copyright" has become the default response to any situation someone doesn't like. Its misunderstood power is waved around desperately
like a talisman in an attempt to ward off bad things
Dodd wants to make this about file sharing, but it's not even in the same city, much less the same neighborhood. Facebook users aren't worried that other users
will download their creations and spread them around the internet. They're worried that their uploaded content will be used to push products and services, which definitely isn't why they uploaded photos, movies, etc. to Facebook.
File sharing is non-commercial infringement. The stuff that Dodd wants shut down isn't comparable to Facebook's actions. Someone can make the argument that file lockers are profiting, but it's not the individual users. What Facebook users were doing with photos, artwork, etc. has more in common with file sharing than it does with Dodd's overreaching attempt to tie his industry into the equation. Someone uploads a photo. Someone else clicks "Share." It spreads. Potentially millions of people see the photo, but it still resides safely in the originating user's account. That's file sharing
. That's the same thing Dodd calls "theft." And that same thing (sharing) is what Facebook users want to continue doing without worrying that they're just generating content for a marketing machine.
The livelihoods of these innovators depend on strong copyright protection policies so they can benefit from their work and continue to create more of it. Without robust intellectual property protections, innovation has no incentive to thrive.
This again. "Without blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah." Whatever. More innovation and creation
has occurred during this Age of Piracy than in any time previous. Give it up. There's some talk about collaborating with the "tech community," but that's been offered before
with all the enthusiasm and sincerity of the limp handshake that accompanies a shot-down sales pitch.
Dodd sums it all up by dragging in the "little people" and attempting to equate the motion picture industry with Facebook users.
Intellectual property and copyright policies are, of course, important to the movie set designer, the lighting assistant, and the costume designer whose paychecks depend on these protections -- but they're also important to the millions of Facebook users around the globe, too. This latest viral post is a great reminder of that.
This "copyright protection" you speak of, Dodd? Facebook users don't want that. They don't want other Facebook users to stop sharing their stuff or ask permission first or hold long discussions about licensing. They just want to share with each other. What they don't
want is to see their stuff being used at the whim of a public corporation. This outcry, as misguided as it is, isn't about "stealing." It isn't about "getting paid." It's not even about "control." It's about sticking it to The Man. It's poorly thought out and badly worded and not even remotely close to an actual legal document, but that's
what it is: a push back against perceived overreach.
Everyone who uses a "free" service knows they'll be paying for it one way or another, but when the piper starts collecting, people get upset. And, thanks to the copyright culture that pervades the US, the knee-jerk response is to shout "copyright" at the offenders until they back down, because they've seen the tactic used before.
Just because you recognize the tactic, Chris, doesn't mean they're talking about the same thing. Facebook is all about individuals sharing content with each other, the same sort of behavior the MPAA frequently calls "theft." They don't want "strong copyright policies." They just want to feel it's their
stuff, rather than Facebook's.