1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Facebook v Power.com: the party-pooper, the gatecrashers and us

Power.com aims to bring your social-networking sites together on to one screen - but not everyone wants to join in (spot the difference, right). At the end of last year when negotiations with Facebook broke down, Power continued to offer access to FB. FB sued for a string of reasons including copyright infringement. Power has attempted to have FB’s claim dismissed but the court held on 11 May: ‘Defendants correctly assert that Facebook does not have a copyright on user content, which ultimately is the information that Defendants’ software seeks to extract. However, if Defendants first have to make a copy of a user’s entire Facebook profile page in order to collect that user content, such action may violate Facebook’s proprietary rights.’

While these two slug it out over an F-word and some discreet web design, let’s not skirt round the copyright elephant that towers in the corner of the courtroom. Though the elephant isn’t a party to this lawsuit it’s very, very big: Facebook’s 200 million users, who upload more than 850 million photos and 8 million videos every month.

Depending on the outcome of this case, FB users may not be allowed to access their own content through Power because they are incidentally infringing FB’s copyright by copying peripheral design features etc. FB users might feel this is monopolistic and tight-fisted when they give FB ‘a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content’.

On the other hand, is the user-friendly Power really acting in the interests of FB users? If Power accesses FB, it’s potentially not just FB’s IP that’s copied without permission, but other users’ content too. Your friends have chosen to give Facebook a licence - not Power and not even you.

1 comment:

Renzo Marchini said...

Interesting.

Without knowing the mechanics of how the service works, a couple of additional thoughts.

Even if not copyright infringement, in the EU (so perhaps only academic) might there not be database right infringement; the database being the compilation of user content which are being either extraction (transferring the content (copyright owned by the users) to another medium (server)) or re-utilisation (making available to the public).

And Power.com would also be processing the personal data of the FB users. Breach of the first data protection principle? There has been no consent and the only argument to legitimise would be on the basis of para 6 of schedule 2. Arguable.