By posting Member Content to any part of the Web site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.
Unfortunately, these terms are not unusual for a site of this nature. But what is particularly problematic in this case is that Facebook's users are exclusively college students which begs the questions (1) are they competent to understand the implications of these terms when they accept the contract and (2) should we be worried that one entity holds a license to a majority of content student's create online while in college?
I've previously written in this space about the great benefits to society I see coming down the line from a generation used to writing and participating in conversations with people beyond their neighborhoods. I don't care that kids are using MySpace to debate their favorite teen idol or Facebook to discuss where to party on the weekend. I believe that kids used to participating in global conversations will demand to continue to be part of global conversations as they mature. This can only be good for democracy.
But there are a couple of downsides. As the Supreme Court nominations have taught, what you say can come back to bite you. Look at Judge Alito's participation at Princeton in drafting a report on the boundaries of privacy. Now multiply that by every blog entry all college students are posting daily on Facebook. Do the students participating on Facebook see the connection between the two?
I think as more information about what people thought as they were young becomes available, our society will need to discount its relevance more. Otherwise, we'll be left with leaders that are the students who couldn't be bothered to participate in these discussions (or people who are so risk adverse they're scared to put anything down on paper).
I'd like to know what Facebook does with the information. Beyond needing a license to post on the site --if needed given the implied license granted when the user posts-- is this just lawyer-drafting where the impulse it always is to write the broadest grants? Or do they plan to use the information in some way. And what happens if Facebook goes out of business? Can they sell all that content to the RNC or DNC? And how might they use it? If they don’t need it, couldn’t Facebook do a great service to their community by narrowing the terms of the license so students understand “What happens in Facebook, stays in Facebook.”
Note: One caveat to this argument is that the Agreement says:
You may remove your Member Content from the site at any time. If you choose to remove your Member Content, the license granted above will automatically expire.
I honestly have no idea what this means since I can't use Facebook since I'm not in college. Once a user graduates does all the information disappear? What is the default? Maybe someone from Facebook, or who uses the service can let me know.