Who Owns What You Post Online?


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance…” Martin Luther King

I never used to read the privacy policy and terms and conditions whenever I was signing up for anything on the internet. I was either too excited or too anxious to read through all that legal jargon. Then one day in my third year of law school on a hot afternoon my Intellectual Property Rights lecturer asked, “Who owns the rights to what you post on twitter?” I had no idea at all.

I then thought to myself that every time that I have signed up for anything on the internet I had entered into a contract with a company all the way in the United States and I had no idea of what the terms of these contracts were. Therefore they could violate my rights and I would be none the wiser and I could be in breach of the contract and have no idea.

Twitter like many other social media sites are giving us a “free product”. They give us the ability to send messages across the world for no cost as long as you have an internet connection. There are very few people who do not use at least one social media site. They have changed the way we live and the way we communicate. However, a lot of people do not know what they are signing up for legally.

Let’s take for example Snapchat. Snapchat is a video sharing app that allows you to share videos and photos which will self- destruct. According to their terms and conditions Snapchat gives you a “personal, worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable, non-exclusive, revocable and non sub-licensable licence to access and use the Services. In return you give Snapchat the license to:

“host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, and distribute that content.”

This means that even though the picture or video “self-destructs” it is still somewhere on their servers. That is why they say the internet never forgets. To give you some comfort they go on to state that the licence is limited to the purpose of improving the services and researching the developing new ones.

Their terms and conditions are easy to read and can be found here.

So who owns your Tweets?

Well you obviously you own all the content that you post. You wrote it and so it is yours (assuming that it was an original thought). However, Twitter’s Terms and Conditions reads as follows:

By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.”

This basically means that when you post anything online you are giving Twitter the license to use your Tweets and share them with the world and allow others to share your Tweets.  Therefore, the simple answer is you own your tweets but Twitter has the right to use your tweets.

Please note that you are solely liable for any damage that your Tweet may cause. Twitter have swiftly absolved themselves of any liability for damages caused by anything posted on their platform.

I could dissect every website and applications Terms and Conditions and their Privacy Policy and it would all basically read the same.  You own the content that you post but you have given these companies a licence.

Most social media sites have made their Terms and Conditions very easy to read. I would encourage you to read them before you sign up so that you know your rights because you never know when you will need the information.

Featured image via revolution-productions.com

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