Like the dreaded "Candy Crush" invite, a message claiming to protect the copyright of users' photos, status updates and other creations shared on Facebook is making the rounds.
The problem? It's totally bogus. There are different variations of the message, but most of them contain something like this:
Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information, I do declare the following: on this day, 28th November 2014, in response to the new Facebook guidelines and under articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data, drawings, paintings, photos, texts etc... published on my profile since the day I opened my account ... Those reading this text can copy it and paste it on their Facebook wall. This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright.
If that looks familiar, it's because people have been sharing it since at least 2012. Essentially, it's saying that Facebook owns all of your content and that by posting this status update you are protecting yourself.
"As a statement of law, it's crap, total nonsense," Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law, told TODAY.com.
A Facebook spokesperson told TODAY.com that it does not own user content and pointed to a FAQ on its soon-to-be updated data policy.
All of the legal jargon, like when it cites "articles L.111, 112 and 113," is completely meaningless, Goldman said.
In its "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities," Facebook writes, "You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook." That is true, Goldman said. Where people might get worried is with what comes after that sentence:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License)
That doesn't mean Facebook owns your content, he said, but that it has the right to use your content according to how you set your privacy settings. It's pretty standard legal language for sites with user-generated content, he said, because that content is often commented on and shared by other users, plus sites like Facebook "are constantly slicing and dicing the content in its database" to make a better user experience.
"I think the copyright license is quite clear, but I'm a lawyer, I draw things like this," Goldman said. "People who are not experienced with clauses like this, it's possible to misread it, and we have seen this over and over again."
He pointed to another case where users became outraged when they thought a site owned their content: GeoCities, back in 1999.
Of course, there are legitimate concerns when it comes to how your photos and status updates are used on Facebook. Those really worried about how their data is being used should spend some time updating their privacy settings. The stricter they are, the less likely your photos are going to be used in ways you don't want them to be — not that anything is guaranteed to stay within certain social networks.
"If you are really concerned about sharing something on Facebook, don't share it," Goldman said.
One thing that won't help is posting a fake legal notice.
"The real impetus behind a post like this is that some people just don't trust Facebook."