Social Media & IPR – Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Among Intellectual Property professionals, it’s a surefire hit: “have you read Facebook’s IP terms”?

Tone is important – think of a TV preacher asking: “have you been tempted by Satan!?”.

Poor Facebook. Don’t blame them, blame the fact that it’s still so difficult to set up your own website, so most people prefer the easy functionality of Facebook to share their personal lives with their peers (and, unfortunately, many more).

The Facebook IP terms are terrible. No, really. What they say, in essence, is that, while in theory, you keep ownership of your IP and your data, in reality you will have no control on them whatsoever.

Facebook gets an unlimited right (license) to do with your data and IP rights, pretty much, whatever they want.

If you close your account, they will delete the data and pictures of what you posted yourself, but not anything that anybody else copied and re-posted.

So, as Homer would say: D’oh!

The reality is that, once you posted something on Facebook (or most other social networks), you effectively lose control.

Is that a problem? To most people, the answer is no. They want to be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and many more, and they want others to see, and copy, their thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Control? You must be kidding – who controls gossip?

But for businesses, the issue is quite different.

Intellectual property, intellectual capital, intangibles – no matter how you call them. In the information society, they are the most valuable assets most businesses own.

And if you post them on Facebook or any other social media network, they can do with it pretty much whatever they want.

On the other hand, you MUST be on Facebook. There is no choice, really. How can you exist for 600 million people (last count, yesterday, and counting), without posting your brand? How can you not be there? How can you afford not to have the business it would generate?

But, by posting that brand, are you putting at risk that same brand you spend millions to create, protect, and make sure nobody, absolutely nobody, could use, recreate, or forbid you to use, unless you said so?

Until you posted it on Facebook, when, effectively, you handed control of your brand in the Facebook world to its real rulers.

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? How do you protect your brand, trademark, etc…, when you know that, when posting it on Facebook, or any other social network, you hand over the control of that brand to another entity, just for the purpose of maintaining its value?

The creative destructive powers of the Internet and its developments on classical IP policies have only just started to work their ways.

Being Facebook’s litigation lawyer is second only to being an actual shareholder.

More on this to follow…