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April 17, 2014

Ex-Rep. James Oberstar Copyrights Facebook Posts

Everyone’s fallen for some social media hoax at some point, and politicians are no different. This time the victim was ex-Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn.

On Sunday at about 11 p.m. EST, Oberstar, former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, posted on his Facebook page: “In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, paintings, writing, publications, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berne Convention).”

“For commercial use of the above,” he continued. “My written consent is needed at all times.”

Beginning in May 2012 this hoax went viral — and it was proved false and was discredited as a play on the public’s fear over online privacy. Now it’s back. Oberstar shouldn’t feel too badly, however, as lots and lots of people fell for it this time around. Enough that ABC News, PC World and Snopes had to assuage the public’s Facebook fears.

According to Snopes.com, and Facebook’s own website, the social media giant has not changed its privacy policy and does not “own” anything you choose to share.

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook,” Facebook says on its legal page. “[A]nd you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”

For intellectual property content “like photos and videos” you give Facebook “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any [intellectual property] content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”

Also, “[t]his IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Of course, this is all contingent on your privacy settings. So, tighten up your privacy settings, congressman, and you should be just fine.

Request for comment from Oberstar was not returned by press time.

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