To read or not to read the fine print! That is the question. Most people choose not to read the fine print.
Not that I blame people simply glazing over when they are confronted with those giant blocks of fine print that you have to “accept” in order to move on- most people don’t really want to spend all that time reading these.. (It took an enormous amount of will power and coffee to read the 23pgs of Apple’s fine print for ios6.) And of course, for every T&C, there is fine print in the privacy, cookie and compliant policies.
What do you miss when you skip reading the Terms and Conditions fine print?
- Who owns the content on the site/service
- How content you upload or create on the service/site can be used
- What the service provider/site owner can do with your information
- What the rules are for using the service/site
Whilst there are many services out there each with their own terms and conditions, almost all of them will include the following clauses in the fine print.
Common Fine Print
- Most common in the fine print is a “Grant of License to Your Content” clause.
This essentially gives the service provider the right to use anything you place on their site; in any way they choose – including the right to identify you by name and through photos and video.
Why do they do this? They expect to make money off of it at some point. Whether or not anyone’s information has been used is irrelevant. The point is that they have claimed this right and you may not have known about it.
- A clause that gives them a free partnership with you forever.
Whilst this looks like the one above, by allowing them to become your partner, you grant the service provider(s) a license to use your content anyway they see fit for free AND you grant them the right to let others use your content as well.
This means that not only can Twitter, Twitpic and Facebook make money from the photograph or video (otherwise, a copyright violation), they also make a commercial profit by licensing their other users to also use the item.
If you are a photographer, a designer or your IP is encapsulated in the visual and you use Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, you are already in such a partnership. While you can stop your account today, whatever you have already posted belongs to the partnership for perpetuity. You may want to read (or have your advisor read) the fine print so you understand what freedoms you give, or have already given, your ‘partner’ when you upload.
- Terms and Conditions also tend to include clear legal responsibilities for when you use their services.
This is where the fine print covers the behaviour, morals and ethics of the service and the expectations of how you’ll behave while using the service.
Underneath these behaviour clauses is the fine print: “You are solely responsible for all of Your Content and all content posted under your account, including, without limitation, photographs, audio files, video files, and live streaming video, as well as any communication with other members“. This means that your behaviour will be judged to be same as the other person in a chain. So watch what you share.
Facebook’s Fine Print for a Business Page
When it comes to using their sites, Facebook is pretty upfront and diligent with their rules – which are not written in fine print. Facebook is also legendary for how often they change their rules. (Actually since originally drafting this article, the rules for a Facebook business page’s cover photo have changed again – the 3rd change since the new format late 2012. So its easy to be innocently breaking the rules.)
Facebook’s new policy for pages’ cover photos eliminate rules against calls to action, contact info or references to price or purchase information, but the policy still maintains the 20 percent limit for text overlay.
The new guidelines give page owners more flexibility in the type of content they include in their covers. The latest Facebook guidelines for pages regarding cover photos is:
“All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Covers may not include images with more than 20% text.”
Here’s a link to the Facebook help center where they explain what constitutes 20% text.
I suspect these new guidelines are much easier for them to automate the monitoring of than the previous ones, so do be aware of them. We may have some comfort because we think our business is too small for Facebook to see; however, I have worked with business owners who had their business page removed for not complying and I can tell you its not easy getting it back. You need to plead a fairly strong case of why and ask for forgiveness (since you pressed ACCEPT, ignorance is not a reason). Sadly, when Facebook does restore your page, your likes and content are not restored, so your hard work in building those relationships (followers) is gone.
This post is not to scare you, but to encourage. Spend some time reading, or get your advisors to read, the fine print and understand what you sign, or may have already signed away. Remember: the fine print is guarding them, not you! Once you have gone through them, you will be able to more readily understand the updates and changes.
You may find tips in this article from LifeHacker on how to skip through T&Cs.