legal

Facebook: Relax, we won't sell your photos

On an otherwise placid holiday weekend, one blog's commentary on a change to Facebook's terms of service created a firestorm of banter on the Web: does the social network claim ownership to any user content on the site, even if the user deletes it?

Facebook reorganized its terms of service last Wednesday. In a blog post, company legal representative Suzie White provided an explanation. "We used to have several different documents that outlined what people could and could not do on Facebook, but now we're consolidating all this information to one central place," White wrote. "We've also simplified and clarified a lot of information that applies to you, including some things you shouldn't do when using the site."

The blog post sounded benign. But the brouhaha arose on Sunday over a revision in the wording of Facebook's policy over what happens to profile content--shared items, blog post-like "notes," photos--when members delete their accounts.

Consumer advocacy blog The Consumerist phrased Facebook's fresh policy as "We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever," pointing out that Facebook's ToS spruce-up removed several sentences in which the company said its licenses on user content expired upon account deletion. And that's where the hysteria began.

"Facebook should now be called The Information Blackhole," one Consumerist commenter proclaimed. "What goes in never comes out. Be careful what you huck in there."

Truth be told, most Facebook users won't give a hoot, the same way that the flurry over the Beacon advertising program in late 2007 was fueled by a few vocal privacy advocates while the general population didn't seem to care about it one way or the other. But for advocates of copyright reform and privacy, not to mention photographers and writers who may want the photos they upload or "notes" they write on Facebook to eventually lead to some kind of profit, the news was alarming.

Some prominent Twitterers and bloggers, like New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, announced that they were deleting their Facebook accounts or pulling all uploaded content.

So Facebook issued somewhat of a clarification on Monday to explain what the change really meant.

"We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload," a statement from Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt read. And indeed, Facebook's terms of service do say that "User Content and Applications/Connect Sites" are exempt from its claims on content ownership.

"The new Terms were clarified to be more consistent with the behavior of the site," Schnitt's statement continued. "That is, if you send a message to another user (or post to their wall, etc...), that content might not be removed by Facebook if you delete your account (but can be deleted by your friend)."… Read more

Facebook valuation 'shocker' another reason to be skeptical of media hype

Here's a message for all the tech bloggers and reporters freaking out over the alleged Associated Press bombshell that some copy-paste legerdemain led to the revelation that Facebook valued itself at $3.7 billion at the time of the ConnectU vs. Facebook court settlement:

Please, chill out! This is not news!

While it had not yet been reported that the ConnectU settlement was a reported $65 million (though since it was in cash and stock, that value may have dropped with the onset of the recession), the $3.7 billion Facebook valuation has been around since July.

The New … Read more

ConnectU founders get $65 million from Facebook?

Talk about spilling the beans: A marketing brochure for law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, which represented would-be social network ConnectU in its much-publicized suit against Facebook, claimed that the final settlement netted the site's founders a handsome $65 million in Facebook stock and cash.

Oops.

A Law.com article dug up the brochure and its claim, and has posted a .pdf file on the Web. According to the same article, principals at the law firm now regret posting the results. Meanwhile, ConnectU remains in a fee dispute with Quinn Emanuel, a fact which came to light … Read more

Apple serves notice: Don't rip off the iPhone

Like most people who paid attention to Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Apple noticed the Palm Pre.

In response to a question from a financial analyst about Palm's new smartphone and its multitouch interface, Apple COO Tim Cook, without addressing the Pre directly, made sure that everyone on Apple's quarterly earnings call Wednesday knew how Apple feels about intellectual property.

"We will not stand for having our IP ripped off," Cook declared, perhaps firing a shot across the bow of Palm and executive chairman Jon Rubinstein, a former Apple employee. To be clear, Cook did … Read more

Psystar: We bought Mac OS fair and square

Psystar is still tilting at legal windmills in its battle against Apple, this time asserting its right to do whatever it wants with products obtained legally from Apple.

After a judge rejected Psystar's antitrust argument--considered its best chance of continuing to sell its Open Computers with Mac OS X preinstalled--the Florida clone maker was allowed to amend its claims against Apple to include other arguments. It has already suggested that Apple is abusing its copyright on the operating system, and now it plans to argue that since Psystar legally purchased its copies of Mac OS X from Apple … Read more

Murder conviction for teen in 'Halo' case

A teenage boy in Ohio has been convicted of murdering his mother because she took away his copy of the video game Halo 3, and now faces the possibility of life in prison.

Daniel Petric, 17, shot both his mother and father in October 2007 with a handgun after what was potentially "weeks" of planning, according to the Associated Press. His father survived, but his mother died of a wound to the head. Petric's defense attorneys had argued that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that he was dangerously addicted to Halo 3. Petric … Read more

Model sues Google over mean, nasty blog remarks

You just can't make this stuff up.

Liskula Cohen, a Canadian model, has sued Google because of offensive remarks made about her on a blog hosted by its Blogger publishing service, according to the New York Daily News.

The 36-year-old Cohen, who appeared on the covers of W and Australian Vogue magazines in the early '90s, wants to know the identity of an anonymous blogger who called her "our #1 skanky superstar," among other lovely epithets.

The blog is called Skanks in NYC, and it is devoted more or less to ridiculing photographs of Cohen, all of … Read more

Facebook silences Project Playlist widgets

Social network Facebook has disabled widgets from music-sharing site Project Playlist at the behest of the music industry, several days after rival site MySpace did the same. The reason? The user-uploaded music on Project Playlist that doesn't have industry sanction.

"The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) initially contacted Facebook last summer requesting the removal of the Project Playlist application for copyright violation, and recently reopened those communications," a statement from Facebook read. "We have forwarded the RIAA's letters to Project Playlist so it can work directly with that organization and music labels on a … Read more

Good news for Project Playlist: Sony BMG strikes deal

Project Playlist has struck a deal with Sony BMG to bring the label's catalog to its streaming-music service. It's the first major-label deal for Project Playlist, which recently brought former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta on as CEO but has been dealing with legal problems that have seen its widgets banned from social network MySpace.

Currently, Project Playlist has been sued by Warner Music, EMI, and Universal Music Group, as well as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), because of the amount of unauthorized content that members have uploaded to the service. Industry rumors have persisted that … Read more

Virginia Tech massacre documents exposed

One day after Virginia Tech released thousands of documents solely to families of victims in last year's massacre, the university's student newspaper made them public.

On Thursday, the Collegiate Times posted the documents, which include e-mails sent from the account of gunman Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 fellow students and faculty members and then killed himself on April 16, 2007.

The nearly 14,000 pages also include the police report on the massacre, e-mails from faculty sent to fellow professors and to Cho, a 2005 harassment complaint against Cho, post-massacre clean-up plans, administration plans on how to present … Read more