WARNING: Social Media Terms of Use. What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You!

alt-text-for-image-of-terms-and-conditionsSocial media and social network Terms of Use (TOU) are often overlooked as we, the users, scramble to get started sharing and liking and pinning, all in the interest of promoting products and services–or increasing public awareness. We click through the legalese in our impatience to get started. Yet what we don’t read, and don’t know, CAN hurt us. Or our organization or our clients.

Building your brand’s presence in a social network, without thoughtfully reading the Terms of Use first, can be harmful. Operating in violation of the terms of service leaves you vulnerable. Your organization could have its page removed, you, or your company or client, might even be legally liable for something like copyright infringement.

Case in point. Facebook announced its new Timeline for Pages feature yesterday and the news was shared with great enthusiasm. Brands are working feverishly now to reformat Facebook Pages to feature the Timeline cover images and to understand what they gain and what they lose in the revised format.

Less widely discussed are the revised terms of use, which provide a list of specific actions that are now outlawed on Facebook pages. For instance, on the cover, you can’t include price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com or references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features. You can’t include calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.” Use of any of these constitute a violation of the revised terms of use and your page could be summarily removed by Facebook. It has happened before. It will happen again.

alt-text-for-Pinterest-gardens-and-growing-board-imageOr consider the hot new social network, Pinterest, which has been the subject of much controversy recently. Pinterest’s terms of use state that we, the users, are giving up the copyright of any materials that we share on the site. The terms of service say that: “By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.” Uh oh.

The terms of use go on to say that :”YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.” The entire paragraph. In caps. So that you cannot miss what you are agreeing to. If you read it.

Pinterest also includes language that reads: “YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, BY ACCESSING OR USING THE SITE, APPLICATION OR SERVICES OR BY POSTING ANY MEMBER CONTENT ON THE SITE, APPLICATION OR THROUGH THE SERVICES, YOU ARE INDICATING THAT YOU HAVE READ, UNDERSTAND AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS, WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE REGISTERED WITH THE SITE AND APPLICATION. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THESE TERMS, THEN YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO ACCESS OR USE THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES OR SITE CONTENT.

If you accept or agree to these Terms on behalf of a company or other legal entity, you represent and warrant that you have the authority to bind that company or other legal entity to these Terms and, in such event, “you” and “your” will refer and apply to that company or other legal entity.”

These may be risks that you, your company or your client are willing to take. And, if you read the terms of use and made a conscious decision to move forward, more power to you. If you didn’t though, are you ready for the possible consequences?

ALWAYS. Always. Take the time to read the words of the terms of service before you start. The language is often confusing to the average bear, which doesn’t help, but you must know what is allowed and what is not. If you don’t you may well regret it.

Do you need any help establishing a professional presence using social media? Or with the integration of social media tools into your existing marketing plan? Give us a call at 419.740.1262 or shoot us an email at info@allenmireles.com. We will be happy to help you figure out your next move. (And where it fits in to your overall marketing program.)

8 comments
JillRooney2
JillRooney2

The tremendous irony for educators is that we have to deal with students who plagiarize off the Internet constantly. Now they will get to see what it's like when someone else uses their material without permission!

Social Don
Social Don

LOL, I wonder what the percentage is for people that actually read the "terms", my guess, less than 1%.

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

Great post Allen. And good reminders for us all. And most of us are too lazy or too busy or too unconcerned to read TOS before we dive in - to any new platform. The upside: it gives business bloggers like us a regular source of content :)))

Tinu
Tinu

Exactly why I don't use Pinterest that much outside hobby/research interests Unless the image I'm pinning already has lose attribution. And you're right - sometimes the possible results are worth it, sometimes not. But I'm Way too lazy to write this article - excellent.

kamichat
kamichat

I am kind of torn about what to do about Pinterest. Their TOS seem very onerous to me. It seems to me that it is just a linking service, so how can they "own" any of the linked content, despite what their legalese says. At any rate, I read a really powerful post yesterday from a lawyer/photog who decided to delete her Pinterest account (reluctantly).

Tinu
Tinu

I meant LOOSE attribution.

annfengshui
annfengshui

 @kamichat Which article was that, if you wouldn't mind sharing it.  I would love to read it, having just signed up for Pinterest and also feeling torn.  I've felt torn about Facebook right along, as well.

allenmireles
allenmireles moderator

 @kamichat I read the same post, found it powerful and compelling. I find all of this troubling, actually.

Trackbacks

  1. […] WARNING: Social Media Terms of Use. What you don’t know CAN hurt you. by Allen Mireles. While the buzz this week has been about the roll-out of timelines, there are very important updates to the Facebook Pages Terms of Use as well. This post outlines these, and other important TOU notes from other social media sites. […]