Facebook Reverses Its ToS Change

The folks over at Facebook seem overwhelmed by the response they have received since Sunday, when the website The Consumerist posted an article about a change in Facebook’s Terms of Service.

About-Face (Book)
Notice of their reversal was available on their service today:

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

In an article in today’s New York Times, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed apologetic, but does not say the matter is closed.

In a Facebook posting on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg said: “A couple of weeks ago, we revised our terms of use hoping to clarify some parts for our users. Over the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information. Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

The posting said the decision to return to previous terms was “the right thing for now.”

Mr. Zuckerberg added that Facebook’s next revision of terms would reflect “a new approach” and would be “a substantial revision from where we are now.”

He promised Facebook users “a lot of input in crafting these terms.”

Indeed. Zuckerberg basically regrets the confusion the text has caused, but the reworked version to the ToS is only temporary.

On one hand, the policy makes sense – if a user posts pictures that become part of mix of content that dozens of others comment upon or is otherwise incorporated into other’s Facebook experience, then its removal would create gaping holes all over the place. Compound that with the ebb and flow of thousands of users leaving or joining each day, and you have swiss cheese.

However, the ToS must make the ownership of the User Content clear. The ToS that caused this hornet’s nest did not, and it was entirely appropriate for people to voice their concerns.

I still feel the data collected is the greatest value to Facebook, and it remains to be seen if they can find a way to balance the concerns of the Users with their own desire to collect, maintain and derive additional benefit from their User Content. It’s not over.

The relevant passage of the reworked ToS appears below:

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

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