While Facebook users may believe that they own the content they post on the platform, the legal reality is a little different.
Facebook’s Legal Terms of Service
If you read Facebook’s legal terms of service, you’ll find that you technically own all of the content and information you post there, but with some important limitations.
What About Photos and Videos?
Facebook users have slightly more rights to the photos and videos that they post to the site, as those works are easier to protect through U.S. copyright law. However, Facebook’s terms allow them a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” This means Facebook can use the photos and videos you post in any way without paying you, and it can also transfer that license to third parties for sharing purposes.
But the control Facebook has over your photos, videos, and information only lasts as long as the content is active on Facebook, and once it’s deleted, Facebook’s IP license ends, unless you’ve shared your content with friends. Facebook’s license doesn’t officially end if your content has been shared with others, and they haven’t deleted it.
Under your right of publicity, you are free to bring a lawsuit against Facebook for using an image without your permission, but by joining Facebook, you basically gave the company permission (albeit unknowingly) to do what it wants with your media. So beware. You may technically own what you post to Facebook but if you share it with others, your rights become extremely limited.