Who Owns Your Content When You Blog? Facebook? Twitter?

After reading this article Facebook owns your content. All of it. Forever, I am reminded of the virtual lack of control content generators have over their content online. This is one of the reasons why I am very careful with not only what I publish online — but where.

Here’s a breakdown of the services I use, how I use them and their “content ownership” policies.

    Facebook – As I mentioned above, the new Terms of Use clearly spell out that Facebook owns your content, including the emails, photos and group messages that you create. I use Facebook to retain an online presence, and as a content aggregator. I don’t typically create original content on Facebook that isn’t archived somewhere else.

    UPDATE: As of 2/18/2009 Facebook has temporarily moved back to its former Terms of Service. More to come in the weeks ahead I’m sure.

    Blogger/Blogspot – I used to use Blogspot for this blog when I first started. Their content policy reads more like community guidelines than ownership, but it wasn’t until after I started using the service that I got a little nervous. You see, if you read Google’s Privacy Policy you’ll notice that Google retains your data for the purpose of maintaining the account. Indeed, Google also does provide the ability to report copyright infringement on Blogger, but in my experiences this process is more painful than it should be.

    I ended up moving my blog over to my own domain (which uses WordPress) for a few reasons. One, I host my own content so I have more control over it, including the ability to back it up. Two, I have more flexibility over themes and the look of the site. Three, my perception is that it looks more professional to have my own domain than one listed on someone else’s.

    While hosting your own domain might not work for you, be sure to check your blog’s privacy policy and terms of service to ensure that you’re making the right decisions.

    Google Analytics – Several businesses and blogs use Google Analytics, and their Privacy Policy also pertains to the data in that service. I use GA, but I also grumble a little bit while I do it. You see, since Google retains control over the data it’s really darn hard to archive that data — especially if you have a website with a lot of traffic and activity. You can only download the first 500 rows of data per segment and even then, the data is downloaded in a format that is definitely not user-friendly. GA is very useful and provides a lot of excellent insight for bloggers; if you own a business I strongly recommend having a second website analytics package to compare/contrast.

    GA also has the ability to benchmark data. I have no problem sharing anonymous traffic numbers with Google, because I do feel that in the end it will only improve GA and other services that Google provides. If you’re interested in learning more about Google Analytics, read my basic overview of how I use Google Analytics for my blog.

    WordPress.com – Different from WordPress.org, if you host your blog on WordPress.com you’ll want to read their Terms of Service as well. In it, it states that “By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog.” Coupled with the privacy policy, WordPress appears to handle your content the same way Google does with respect to blogging.

    LiveJournal – I started using LiveJournal quite a few years ago, before I even had a blog. This part blogging, part social media platform is useful for a lot of writers because of its friendly terms of service and privacy policy. In many ways, LJ is easier than blogging for a lot of folks because the interface is pretty straightforward. I’ve strayed from LJ because I started a blog, but still integrate some content and RSS aggregation through this service. I’d also like to note that I haven’t found a way to add GA or other web analytics tracking to an account, but that’s less of a concern for me on this platform than on my blog.

    Twitter – In Twitter’s Privacy Policy, you may note that they will use your information to market you. The good news is that Twitter has flat out stated in their Terms of Service, that you own what you tweet. Since this is a free service, I don’t mind that they use my information to market my persona. After all, I always have the right to say “No.”

    MySpace – While I don’t use MySpace very often, I was pleasantly surprised when I reviewed their Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. Although I find that MySpace’s interface is more challenging to interact with than Facebook, at least you own all of the content you provide on MySpace.

    Flickr – As a photo-sharing site, you’d expect that you’d own your own images. The good news is that on Flickr you do. Read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information. I happen to really like this service and will continue to use it as my preferred photo-sharing and storage site.

I strongly encourage you to double-check the services you use and see what their terms of service and privacy policies are. At the very least, these legal notices will help you make smart decisions so you retain more control over what you’re posting. For example, since you don’t own the photos that you post on Facebook, perhaps you’ll think twice before posting original photos using their service.

Truth be told, I am nervous about Facebook taking such an aggressive stance. I wonder what will happen if we don’t address their new terms of service now? Will other content networks and social media sites follow suit?

Please note that I did not even broach the subject of RSS feed syndication in this post. There’s a lot of confusion about whether or not RSS feed syndication is copyright infringement or outright “stealing” of your content. When I have time to research the logistics on that topic I’ll throw a separate post together.

In the meantime, please double-check the services that you use and make sure that you are happy with the way they treat your content ownership. Whether you’re happy or frustrated, I invite you to throw a comment on this blog to share your knowledge and experience.

11 Responses to Who Owns Your Content When You Blog? Facebook? Twitter?
  1. [...] final word goes to writer and content consultant at mlvwrites.com Monica Valentinelli: Whether you have ... writary.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/why-do-we-blog
  2. [...] http://www.mlvwrites.com/2009/02/owns-content-blog-facebook-twitter.html [...]... 24posts.com/2010/11/30/who-owns-your-data-on-social-networks

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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