Facebook privacy notice copyright hoax meme (of the day)

| November 26, 2012 | Reply
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Facebook privacy notice and copyright hoax memes always amaze me — not the hoaxes themselves so much as some of the people who actually fall for them. Take this one currently going around, for instance:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner 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. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.

Wow, legal-looking numbers and everything… This Facebook privacy notice warning must be legit! Or, you know, NOT.

While it doesn’t surprise me when people who aren’t creators or legal professionals fall for Facebook hoax memes like this one about copyright law, it does surprise me when journalists and lawyers do so.

KBA president-elect falls for Facebook privacy notice hoax

Among the numerous people I’ve seen fall for this malarkey in the past 24 hours are a former national officer for the National Press Photographers Association, a freelance writer who’s published several popular self-help books and — this one really blew my mind — Thomas L. Rouse, president-elect of the Kentucky Bar Association (motto: “Advancing the profession through Leadership, Ethics and Education”).

Facebook privacy notice hoax trips up KBA president-elect, as shown in this screen capture of Kentucky Bar Association President-Elect Thomas L. Rouse's public Facebook profile on November 26, 2012. The Erlanger mayor and attorney fell for a Facebook privacy notice copyright hoax meme.

Screen capture of Kentucky Bar Association President-Elect Thomas L. Rouse’s public Facebook profile on November 26, 2012. Even professionals who should know better can sometimes fall for hoaxes like this Facebook privacy notice meme.

While I don’t know Mr. Rouse and I’d usually be hesitant to criticize someone publicly on something like this, the fact that the incoming president of the Kentucky Bar Association would fall for this inane Facebook privacy notice hoax frankly blows my mind. He later followed up his post with “I don’t know if this has real meaning, but I also don’t see how it could hurt me. Who knows?” Well, respectfully, you should, sir.

I’m sure he’s probably a very nice man, a competent attorney in his areas of practice (he doesn’t list intellectual property law as an area of expertise) and I’m not surprised he’s got an excellent Martindale rating. However, it’s very discouraging when you’re a professional photographer whose livelihood largely depends on licensing  photos to publications and your state bar association’s incoming president — a practicing attorney for more than 30 years — appears to know shockingly little about copyright law. Actually, it’s more than discouraging — it’s downright embarrassing.

At least three of his friends have passed along this misguided nonsense so far, just further perpetuating the Facebook privacy notice copyright warning myth. One even added a note saying, “Good advice from the incoming president of the Kentucky Bar Association.”

No, it’s most certainly not good advice from the incoming president of the Kentucky Bar Association. I weep for our state.

Friendly advice

For better or worse, people tend to believe it when lawyers post things about the law. They also tend to believe it when photographers post things about photography, plumbers post things about plumbing, academics post things about academia, cooks post things about cooking and kite flyers post things about flying kites. It’s only natural; we want to believe our friends, especially when our friends say something about subjects in which we know (or believe) they have expertise.

At best, anyone who blindly passes along information like this on social media sites (or elsewhere) without taking a moment to verify it first is doing a disservice to their friends (both real and virtual). When a professional such as a licensed attorney — much less the head of a state bar association — passes along misinformation about copyright law like this, though, it’s far more troubling because it’s tantamount to an endorsement of the misinformation.

We’ve already established this year that politicians don’t know much about female physiology, but what if a physician you knew posted something on Facebook saying women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape?” While that might sound far-fetched, I really don’t think it would be any more far-fetched than an attorney-at-law posting a bogus Facebook privacy notice meme like this.

Want something to post? Try this:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines which don’t actually exist but cause people to make up laws and post them anyway, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal writings, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as it has always been since the day I was born, anyway). For commercial use of the above, my written consent is needed at all times (as it always has been, anyway). Oh, and you’ll need to pay me. Even in Pakistan (thanks, Berne Convention!).

Most importantly, though, I hereby proclaim that the Rome Statute will allow the International Criminal Court to intervene in the event that I declare myself a country and start committing genocide or crimes against humanity (assuming the UN gives them permission). Which, let’s face it, could totally happen.

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook wall. Or they can make me a sandwich. The latter would probably be more constructive.)

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Category: Reality Bytes

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I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email (discretion is always guaranteed).