Facebook privacy hoax fools many

Facebook users scramble to copyright their posts and photos as the social network proposes new changes, but fall prey to yet another privacy hoax.

It is not the first time that a privacy uproar has swept across Facebook, and it is likely not going to be the last. If you have wandered through the pages of the social media site in the last few days, you probably have seen this posted once, or a dozen times:

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, graphics, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berne Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times! Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws.”

This declaration of ownership has become a hot posting because Facebook is once again tinkering with its privacy rules, proposing changes that would revoke a user’s right to vote on any future changes. But  what many unsuspecting posters don't understand is that the above declaration is completely useless in protecting their rights to photos of their baby or what they had for breakfast.

Explains Lorri Lomnitzer, an associate at Arnstein & Lehr’s litigation and intellectual property practice in West Palm Beach, Fla., "The use of a website that stores a user's information, photos, and intellectual property is bound by their terms of service and privacy policy. Facebook users agree to be bound by these policies when they sign up for Facebook and subsequently post. Facebook users cannot change their acceptance of these policies."

What’s more, says Mark A. Goldstein of SoCal IP Law Group in Westlake Village, Calif., “a stale statement hidden away in a long ago Facebook post may not apply to photos you recently uploaded.”

So what's a creative Facebook soul to do to protect their rights? Lomnitzer has some good advice. Avoid posting photos and writings altogether, or "adjust their privacy settings in order to limit their audience." In addition, she suggests that copyrighting creative works with the U.S. Copyright Office provides the best protection against infringement.

And users who want to check the validity of the latest so-called privacy safeguard before posting their gullibility to their profile for the world to see can check Snopes.com, a myth-busting website that might just save them some embarrassment.