Social Networking and User Generated Content (“UGC” for those with less time on their hands) is perhaps one of the next real boom areas for IP Law, mainly in light of privacy issues, but also over the ownership of what you actually post on Facebook, BeBo et al. After all, if you were to come up with a really popular viral video (and a lot of people have started to do this), is it the videomaker who gets publicity, or do people just remember it as something funny they saw on YouTube?
What Facebook tried to do was to claim ownership and/or a licence over ANYTHING that’s posted on the site, even after users delete their account. In their defence, Facebook claim that they would need a licence to distribute and use anythign that’s posted onto the site legall, hence the need for a licence. What they’d need the data and/or content for afterwards is pretty obvious – so they could sell it or make money from it otherwise.
The lesson here though has to be that what you create is usually almost always worth something. Commercialising it may be difficult, but stranger things have been very profitable. Ify ou are a serial UGC creator, blogger or online marketer, make sure you don’t sign your life away – read the terms of EVERY social networking site and remember – if it’s worth copying, it’s worth protecting.