Quit Posting Facebook Copyright/Privacy Messages — It’s a Hoax

Have you seen the one where you're supposed to post a legal notice to your Facebook profile to ensure the social networking titan can't use anything you've written without your permission?

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Robert Galbraith / Reuters

Have you seen the one where you’re supposed to post a legal notice to your Facebook profile to ensure the social networking titan can’t use anything you’ve written without your permission?

No, doing so won’t accomplish anything legally speaking, and yes, it’s a hoax — an old one that already made the rounds earlier this year according to urban legend tracker Snopes.com.

I scraped a copy of the message off my own Facebook News Feed this afternoon (one of my friends had posted it), and other TIME editors confirmed seeing it in their feeds this morning. Here it is, in full:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, graphics, comics, paintings, photos, and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For any and all commercial use of the above my written consent is required in every instance.

(Those reading this may copy and paste this text on their Facebook walls. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I hereby notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents, and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punishable by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, then you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be allowing tacitly the use of elements such as your photos, as well as the information contained in your profile status updates

The idea seems to be that by posting this, you can somehow override the privacy strictures you agreed to when you signed up for Facebook. Let’s be clear: You can’t. It’s that simple. Posting such messages, whatever you’ve read about your rights and the power of self-declared legalese, will simply clutter up your timeline and annoy your friends. If you have a problem with Facebook’s privacy policies, you can either stick it out and lobby for Facebook to amend its terms, or you can quit Facebook.

Part of the appeal behind this particular version of the hoax lies, I suspect, in its citation of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), Section 1-308, which supposedly confers certain legal privileges if you drop it somewhere in the vicinity of your signature. In short, it doesn’t, and it certainly doesn’t protect you on Facebook. The only thing that’ll protect you on Facebook is you, in other words — taking care not to post anything you’d rather stay private.

Perhaps “hoax” is too strong a word. Sometimes these things are just viral mistakes — someone taking a well-intentioned misunderstanding and driving it viral (though that’s often also a definition for “conspiracy theories”). People pick it up thinking they’re immunizing themselves with, as Snopes puts it, a “legal talisman.” No such thing exists. The person who devised this particular message may have been going for viral clutter, or they may simply have been misinformed.

Update: Facebook’s weighed in on what it refers to as a “Copyright Meme” spreading on its site, and you’ll be happy to know the company’s making it clear that you — not Facebook — own your content, period.

There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users’ information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been.