When you blindly click the Accept button to agree to Facebook’s term of service, you are granting them an unlimited right to own and possibly sell your images — and to profit from that sale.
One of the things I do as a hobby is investigate local government corruption. It’s a big job as those in power are often unused to people paying attention, yet they have the resources to angrily dissuade you. I take it all in stride, mostly because it thrills me to annoy the pompous.
In my travels I learned how to read legalese. That comes in handy because laws mean little to the corrupt. But it also comes in handy when looking at any legal document. Take this portion of the Facebook End User License Agreement (EULA):
By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.
Using my 8th Grade Powers of Sentence Diagramming, the above sentence (yes, it’s all one sentence) boils down to this:
You Grant License.
The word irrevocable means that you cannot take the license back. The word perpetual means that the license is granted to “the Company” forever, even after you die. (And “the Company” is defined elsewhere as Facebook or whoever buys Facebook in the future.)
The object of the sentence is vast. Basically it means that Facebook can do anything it wants with whatever images you post there. It can use them “for any purpose.” The next sentence in the EULA (not shown above) states that even if you remove the images Facebook is still free to use copies of those images from its backups or archives.
Now I don’t think Facebook is evil, thought its EULA is crafted by lawyers and they are most definitely evil. My point is, when you post that cute picture of your kids on Facebook and you find the picture being used a few years later in Germany to sell soap, there is nothing you can do about. I’m not implying that such a thing has happened or will happen, but it could. Legally. You agreed to it.
Here is the full Facebook EULA.