'Social media is called social media for a reason. It lends itself to sharing, rather than horn tooting.' Margaret Atwood, author and essayist.

social media contentHow many times have you seen this: There's been a formatting change, or some kind of so-called improvement on Facebook or Twitter, and some of your friends didn't like it? I get that. People don't like change. Then they complained about it, on their pages. They probably said something like, 'I have HAD it with (insert social media platform here)! This is the last time they mess with my page! Why can't they leave well enough alone?

The problem, of course, is that people often confuse their social media content with the platform that they post it on. 

Who owns social media content?

You own all the original content that you post on social media. If the rights aren't owned by someone who paid you to create it, and no copyright infringement has been made, you legally own the content. It doesn't matter if it's 140 characters, a video, a picture, or a novel that's twice the length of all George R.R. Martin books combined. The content is yours.

Well, sort of

Facebook, for example, has some interesting caveats in their legal terms.

'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.

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.'

Here's the catch You don't own the platform it's posted on. You own the content, but you don't always own exclusivity to how it is used or distributed. Each platform has a Terms of Service agreement which hardly anybody reads, and almost everybody should. Intellectual property is a precious commodity, and protecting it is a two-way street.

Take a look at Google's terms of service:

We are constantly changing and improving our Services. We may add or remove functionalities or features, and we may suspend or stop a Service altogether.

You can stop using our Services at any time, although we'll be sorry to see you go. Google may also stop providing Services to you, or add or create new limits to our Services at any time.

We believe that you own your data and preserving your access to such data is important. If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.

That's actually, by far, some of the friendlier wording you'll find. All terms of service vary, so familiarizing yourself with the terms of your social media platforms of choice is advised.

But, is it free?

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn. They're actually all free services, at least for now. While they reserve the right to change that status at any time, users need to respect the fact that they get to share all kinds of material with friends and family at no actual cost to themselves. Advertising on these sites has increased, of course, and you may find that intrusive; but most of us have learned to mentally block out the content of anything which really doesn't interest us. If the advertising didn't exist, however, there is no legitimate reason for the service to exist at all. They have every right to earn a buck.

Privacy issues on these sites are always being discussed, but there are ways to adjust these. Take the time to learn how.

All of this means that fuming over a service which costs nothing, with terms of service which you agreed to likely without fully reading, is a bit unfair (at best). My best advice? If you find yourself annoyed by a change, and you can't make an adjustment that satisfies you, take a break from that site for a while. 

 

Gary Locke
By Gary Locke

A semi-professional hyphenate and the Content Editor for CommonPlaces. He has enjoyed a long career in theater and multimedia, and still hopes to one day drive the Batmobile.

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