Facebook, intellectual property, lies and damned lies

Mark Twain wrote that Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  And though we can’t prove the quote came from Disraeli—there are alternative sayings before that—it nonetheless came to mind recently while reading about Facebook’s upcoming changes to their various service terms.

According to their Terms of Service update, most notably the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” update, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015, anyone posting intellectual property on Facebook basically grants Mark Zuckerberg’s company free rein to do with that property as they wish.

So let’s see where this goes.

According to Facebook’s own document (linked above), we find this:

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). This 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.

  1. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  2. […]
  3. When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
  4. […]

And then we find TIME toeing the party line.  To wit:

[People worried about their content being sold] are wrong, says Matt Steinfeld, Facebook’s Privacy Communications Manager. “The passage in our terms of service that covers your information and your content has not changed,” he tells TIME. “We can’t sell property that we don’t have. You own the things you share on Facebook.”

But let us be mindful and legal in our interpretation of these events.  Because clearly we’re being assumed as idiots.  Which we’re not.

The article goes on to say,

By signing up to the social media site, users agree to grant Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” This license, however, ends “when you delete your [Intellectual Property] content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Steinfeld argues that this license is required to allow Facebook to show that particular content on its platform. “But we can’t turn around and sell [it] without your knowledge or permission,” he adds.

At which point I—and anyone with a brain—immediately thinks of Mark Twain’s quote.


[…] 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).

Facebook’s own document contradicts their words.  It says that anything we post is automatically their property and they can sell it, license it, use it, and otherwise abuse it.

But does it mention anything about requiring our permission or notification to us?

Absolutely not.  Again, read the update in its entirety.

The TIME article goes on to say that the license terms only grant Facebook a use right for intellectual property but that a third party would have difficulty using that same property.  Which isn’t the case at all.  The terms grant Facebook the right to sub-license the content, an act that would grant a third party non-exclusive rights to use that content.

So claiming otherwise once again brings to mind Mark Twain’s quote.

Their terms make clear they can license our property to third parties without notice or consideration or compensation.  And it says that sub-licensing is not exclusive.  Which means even a third party has no obligation to notify us, let alone cancel or delete the content if we delete our content.

“I think people are rightly interested in making sure that they have ownership and control over the things they are sharing,” Steinfeld adds. “When people see things [that allude to the fact] that it might not be the case, they are understandably worried. But, the fact of the matter is that it’s pretty clear-cut. There’s no question that people own the things they share on Facebook.”

Unfortunately, it’s not clear-cut and there is room for question.  Facebook’s legal documents show that anything posted comes with all the licensing and use rights Facebook needs to sell or otherwise commercialize that content.  And it makes clear that we, the creators of said content, have no control over what Facebook does with it.

This is not complicated.  It’s as simple as being able to read plain English.  Because it’s right there in writing.

I’m not so much concerned about the rampant licensing of my content without notice or compensation as I am the confusion created when legal documents are contradicted by a spokesman.  It doesn’t change the terms to say something contrary to them, but it does mislead the public into thinking those documents say something that they clearly don’t say.

Again I’m forced to think of Mark Twain’s quote.

Discoveries in darkness

I’ve said it so often I’ve lost track of the count: I hate using flash for photography.  It sucks the life out of subjects.  It looks artificial.  Whatever’s in the photo tends to appear lifeless.  Pictures with flash don’t represent what the eye saw.

But I live in the boondocks.  As one local put it, my family lives so far out in the country that we have to drive to town to hunt squirrels.  Which is pretty much laughable yet almost true.

So photographing nocturnal wildlife forces one in my position to use flash.  And nocturnal wildlife we have in abundance.  As long as you can forgo sleep to see it, let alone photograph it, the nights here are filled with so much awesomeness that it’s hard to imagine.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in dewy grass (20141026_12679)

Several weeks ago and long before sunrise, I discovered a green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) meandering through dew-laden grass.  A bit of moonlight showed me its brightness on an otherwise dark ground.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in dewy grass (20141026_12697)

So I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos.  With flash.  Which pretty much blinded me to what I was seeing, but I was OK with that.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in dewy grass (20141026_12701)

Because I knew where my subject hid and I knew how to snap the photos.

Then, three days later, I discovered three such treefrogs as they wandered about in the predawn hours.  Only one of them presented me with a photographic opportunity.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12702)

So I took advantage of the chance to photograph the bright amphibian.

And I snapped photo after photo.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12707)

Changing angles, I kept taking pictures.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12714)

The flash blinded me, of course, and I only knew about the frog I could see in the weak moonlight.

So everything was lost to me.  Except my subject.  Until I processed the images.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12716)

And that’s when I discovered a praying mantis hanging out beside the frog.  Even if it hadn’t been dark, the mantis was camouflaged so well that it would have appeared like a bit of grass—which it did.

The mantis only became apparent when I processed the photos later.

Though I can’t tell you the species, I suspect it to be a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). , Unfortunately, we have several mantis species here and these photos don’t identify it.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in early morning light (20141029_12746)

Later, once the sun came up, I went looking for the pair.  Only the frog remained.

At least so far as I could see.  Because the mantis could well have been there, but it so well matched the grass that it might as well have been invisible.  Literally and figuratively.

Toads galore

This has clearly been a banner year for toads in East Texas.  For that matter, it’s been a banner year for walking sticks, frogs, praying mantises, grasshoppers, beetles, snakes, and a variety of other critters.

But we normally have a collection of toads in the immediate vicinity of the house, and this year that collection has grown into a horde.  Each night as they become active, it’s not at all uncommon to see six or eight of them just around the carport, all of varying sizes and color schemes.

An east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) hiding in the grass (20140926_12565)

The majority are east Texas toads (Bufo velatus).  We have other species, of course, but B. velatus is ubiquitous.

Close-up of an east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) (20140926_12583)

From sunset to sunrise, finding toads has never been easier.  (A little too easy since it’s been necessary to watch carefully when walking lest you kick one or step on it.)

An east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) nestled in a burrow (20141009_12640)

As morning rolls around, they begin heading off to their various hideaways and burrows.  Though the outside cats ignore them (they learned early not to mess with toads), the dogs are fascinated and just waiting for a chance to grab one.  We don’t really want that to happen, but it would be a lesson hard learned for the canines.

Close-up of a juvenile east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) (20141009_12628)

With so much food available, not one of them looks like it’s starving.  And if you catch them in the right mood, they not only look healthy but they also look downright adorable.


The sun had yet to show even a sliver of its bright disk above the horizon, though the ample light of dawn made clear it wouldn’t be long before that happened.  And as is always the case that early in the morning, my uncle and I were already busy tending to farm work.

Because white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) are common out here in the country, we often see them as we toil about the property.  In fact, some have become so accustomed to us that they don’t run—instead they look at us briefly before returning to whatever they’re doing.  Which is usually eating.

So on this morning we glanced into the largest pasture and noticed a doe standing perhaps ten yards/meters from the fence.  She knew we were close—standing at the fence—yet she never stopped or ran.

And what was she doing?  It was obvious from the moment I saw her, with her head far down in the tall grass.  I knew she had a fawn.  From the way she tended to it without fleeing, I also knew it couldn’t be more than a few hours old because she was still cleaning it, licking it, bonding with it.

So I grabbed my camera.

By then, as luck would have it, the newborn was able to get up and walk, albeit not fast and not expertly.  As I approached the fence again with my camera, we saw the mother turn and walk steadily away from us.

The only sign of the fawn was the grass bending and parting a step or two behind the doe.  That meant I’d have to go in the pasture if I had any hope of grabbing a photo or two. 

Over the fence I went.

I had to move at a good pace in order to catch up to the pair who had already made it across most of the large pasture.  They rapidly approached the corner of the fence.  I rapidly approached as well.

Though the doe made it over without a problem, she paused on the other side of the fence even as I neared.  I knew it was my chance.  She was waiting on the fawn who would have to wiggle and squeeze through the fence.

When the doe bolted, huffing all the while, and paused maybe ten yards/meters away, still huffing at me, I realized it was my chance.  The fawn had to be nearby since it couldn’t keep up with its mother, not to mention its mother trying hard to keep me interested in her.

Then I found it just a step away.

A white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11370)

Nestled in tall grass and motionless, the fawn was perfectly concealed, at least from predators looking for a solid outline or something in motion or a contrasting coat.

A white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11392)

While I snapped a few photos, the mother looped around through the woods nearby, huffing every few steps, stopping often to look at me, making sure I saw and heard her.  But I had no intention of harming her newborn, a baby just hours old, so I let her continue with her display and her antics as I focused on the fawn.

A white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11382)

Just a few images more of this beautiful creature, so young and so vulnerable yet so unflinching, and then I stood and walked away, not looking back, not pausing.

Close-up of a white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11378)

Only when I’d crossed the pasture did I dare to glance back.  I saw only the doe as she meandered slowly back into the woods from where I’d just been standing.  And though I couldn’t see it for all the trees and grass between us, I imagined somewhere right behind her was a tiny little fawn pushing through grass much taller than it was, a newborn who knew when it was time to sit still and when it was time to follow its mother.

I smiled briefly, glad for the encounter, then I went back to work.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. I normally would not consider interfering with nature in such a way just to get a photo.  I prefer passive observation and in situ images.  But in this case I realized I could only get the images if I could get close enough to force the fawn into hiding.  And I also knew my quick visit would cause no lasting harm, what with the mother staying a stone’s throw away and keeping a close eye on her child.
  2. My apologies for my long absence from blogging.  It’s been a hectic and busy summer around the family farm.  I’ve had barely enough time to do some occasional photography, but for the most part I have worked and worked and worked with little time for anything else.  As the summer comes to a close and things begin to slow down a wee bit around here, I have ample pictures and stories to share.  And I intend to do just that.

Unfulfilled promises

It feels like a house with one of its children gone.  Perhaps even emptier than that.

Loki sitting on the floor staring at me (162_6284)

It feels like a song with no music or lyrics.  Perhaps even quieter than that.

A close-up of Loki as he looks outside (163_6319)

It feels like a bed with no one to warm it.  Perhaps even colder than that.

Loki half asleep on the bed (2009_03_01_011809)

It feels like a list of unfulfilled promises that can never be redeemed.  Perhaps even more disappointing than that.

A close-up profile of Loki as he sleeps (20081005_13451_new)

At least now he can sleep peacefully without suffering.  That’s the only substantive good I can find in this hollow.

Loki, February 1997 – May 2014

a life in progress