Content on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook…
The question of who owns your content posted to the various social media platforms tends to come up every single time one of the updates the Terms of Service. Recently, Twitter updated their terms of service causing a tremendous flood of blogs and news media to ask the same question… Who owns the content?
Social Media Terms of Service
The technical answers are buried within each platform’s terms of service. After reading and pouring through all the legalistic verbiage, one can still walk away not quite sure what the answer is. This may be why the question keeps coming up… rarely does anyone actually provide clear cut answers. Its not in their best interest to actually make it that clear, especially when so many users really could care less!
The Reality of Social Media Content
One of the questions I heard recently was what happens if the service goes down or closes? Can the users retrieve their content? Here’s the reality… the service does not belong to the users. It belongs to the service provider. No matter how they word the terms, one should always figure that the service provider will take ownership of the content. It should be assumed that they will use the content to their own financial advantage (and who can blame them?)
When you are using social media to increase your own website’s visibility, you should take the approach that the content you provide them is owned by them. Sure, if done properly, you take advantage of a great ROI as most platforms are free to use. This means that you are in fact getting something for nothing and getting upset that the social media service may use your contributions to make profit is an absolutely ridiculous idea.
If you are one of those that are worried about the content belonging to you, then post that important content on your own website and simply use the social media to enhance that. But there are those out there using these free services as their main (or in some cases ONLY) basis for an internet presence. This is not the best way to survive long term online!
Counting on Free Social Media?
There must be a way to make money to sustain the platform. Most free services do not remain as such… they may end up charging for the service, use advertising avenues, or in worst case, turning off their services. So the general rule to live by with social media… if its free, surely use it… don’t rely on it!