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Sacramento, copyright status updates on Facebook have no meaning

Starting earlier this week, Sacramento residents probably started seeing their Facebook newsfeeds fill up with status updates their friends were publishing because they thought Facebook was going to start exercising ownership of their material.

Although there were a few different messages being copy/pasted, most were to the effect of "In observance of new Facebook policies, I hereby state that all copyrights attached to material on my Facebook profile are mine and mine alone. Commercial use thereof will be punished."

So, did these messages have any legal effect? Not really.

The first thing to know is that Facebook has never tried to say it has copyright privileges regarding the photos you post or the status updates you publish. The terms and policies of Facebook make it clear that you are the owner of the copyright on this material.

The second thing to know is that when you signed up for Facebook, you agreed to its terms and conditions. Publishing a status update will not override those terms and conditions.

Finally, you should know that while copyright attaches automatically as soon as you fix your work in a tangible medium, it is possible that you can agree to give those rights up. For instance, when engineers, photographers, writers or designers are hired, they often have to sign a form as part of their on-boarding paperwork that says that the copyright of any work the professional creates on the job belongs to the company, not the professional. So, even if Facebook's policy was to take ownership of your copyrighted material when you created that material using Facebook as a medium, you could not undo that by publishing a status update.

Source: WPTV, "Facebook warning hoax: Copyright privacy message capitalized on privacy fears, experts say," Nicole Saidi, Nov. 27, 2012

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