Can You Copyright Protect What You Put On Facebook?

facebook-copyrightEvery few months, messages make the rounds on Facebook about ways to copyright protect what you post on Facebook. It generally resurfaces as a result of some change to Facebook’s guidelines. Does it really hold any legal water?

Rather than guess one way or another, we asked Oklahoma City based lawyer Shawn Roberts. He graciously agreed to write a guest blog for us on the subject. Without further ado, here is his advice.

Legal Reality Check: Can you renegotiate the terms of the deal on privacy with Facebook?

The answer is NO, you don’t gain any additional legal rights by simply posting notices or disclaimers on your Facebook wall.

You made a deal with Facebook on these issues when you signed up and that deal controls over notices that you may post.

If you are on Facebook even briefly you may have noticed a couple of disclaimers that users are posting. There is the “copyright” warning:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berne Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

and the “privacy” notice:

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employees, agents, students or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

The purported point of these posts is to carve out special privacy or copyright protection from the standard Facebook terms of service. As the theory goes, “post these notices once to protect your rights”. If only it were that easy to make a new deal.

Unfortunately, these notices are ineffective and have no legal value in protecting a user’s rights against Facebook. Your legal relationship with Facebook is controlled by the legal terms of service, created by Facebook and agreed to before using the service. For a more detailed review of this issue, check out this article from Snopes.

The bottom legal line is these notices are legally meaningless, not even worth the mouse click, copy and paste that it takes to post it to your account. Users who have posted the notices and users who have not posted the notices are the same position: controlled by Facebook’s terms of service.

Shawn J. Roberts


  1. What is tricky about the internet, is that you don’t really know where your content is going. Someone can go to your Facebook page and download your photos and keep them in their own personal collection. You wouldn’t even know unless the person displayed your photos publicly. The bottom line is, always think twice about what you post online as once it goes live, it is available for anyone to take.

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