Another year has likely brought about another round of faux legalese to your Facebook news feed. If you have been on Facebook within the last week or two, you have probably seen something like this:
So who really owns your Facebook content? You do. Anyone who uses Facebook owns the information and content that he or she posts, as Facebook itself previously stated in a news release. Facebook's terms of service govern its relationship with its users, and they are the only source of Facebook's rights in its users' intellectual property. Pursuant to Facebook's terms of service, a user grants Facebook "a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook," which "ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it." This means that Facebook does not own your photos and other posts, but it can use them unless and until you cancel your account.
But can you alter the terms of service by simply citing the Rome Statute (an international treaty primarily addressing war crimes) and the Uniform Commercial Code (which governs commercial transactions) in a Facebook post? In a word, no. You accept Facebook's terms and conditions by creating an account, and you cannot unilaterally alter those terms by saying that you do not wish to be bound by them. As a practical matter, your only option is to delete your Facebook account if you are not satisfied with its terms of service.
So what do you do next time this privacy notice hoax makes the rounds? Don't take the bait-it's not going to stop Facebook from doing anything with your data. At best, all that these notices are capable of is making your Facebook friends who know better chuckle.