Many people use to keep personal profiles in online social networking websites like Facebook or Twitter, where members publish statuses, share statements and upload photos or videos. Some people prefer to manage the security of their profiles in order to keep their privacy on higher level; others, who are famous in the society (artists, sport players, politicians, etc.), usually share personally made photos or videos with the public (i.e. with their fans around Globe). For example, according to the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities on the Facebook website, the particular member of this social networking website declares and gives to Facebook non-exclusively, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license over the published Intellectual Property content (uploaded personal photos and videos, mostly).
I think Facebook is a wonderful method to connect you with other people; I like it and admire its creator. In my view there is nothing wrong to share photos and/or videos with the public, and people obviously don’t have problem with that, since they manage on their own the privacy on their own Facebook profiles and it is up to them to decide what to share with others and what not. I would like just to mention some particular situations where Intellectual property rights (author’s rights for example) of Facebook users may be harmed by third parties. According to the Bulgarian Intellectual property Law and the stipulated rules within the Author’s Right Act, such damage may occur in situations where third parties – usually TV media, newspaper publishers, other websites, etc. – download personal photos or videos from the profile of particular Facebook user, and then use this Intellectual property content for business reasons in their own products (newspapers, television reports, news articles on other websites, etc.) for their own profit and benefit. This happens without the knowledge and/or the consent by the owner of the said intellectual property content (personally photographed photos) and without paying remuneration to their author. Usually the placed argument by these third parties who use for trade purposes (i.e. not for personal use) such materials is that, since it has been already shared by the concrete Facebook user, then it should be considered as “public content” and would not represent a protected Intellectual material.
Well, in my personal view, such understanding is incorrect according to our legal system and our civil courts, and I would not buy such argument, because once published by users on Facebook (where the said non-exclusive license is granted to this social network), any personal photos and videos do not become automatically a property of any third parties for their free usage on other (business) platforms. Any third parties obviously do not have binding agreement with the social networking website, neither with the individual user who shared personal photos or videos, for using it for their business purposes. The license, initially given by the user to Facebook, has not then been passed to these third parties at all. Therefore they are not allowed to use this Intellectual property content, claiming that it already has become “public” once shared in Facebook. In other words, newspapers for example, are not legally allowed to make their own profit via posting personal photos that are downloaded from a Facebook’s profile, where they have not awarded the person who holds the author’s rights on this content.
This is why, according to the Bulgarian Intellectual Property Law, the third party – user of personal content shared in social networks like Facebook for their own needs, benefit and profit, is liable and responsible towards the author of this personal content, protected by the Law, for pecuniary damages caused by its usage for trading purposes outside Facebook without permission and without remuneration. Punitive (monetary) damages are subject of proof in court. Non-pecuniary damages are claimable too, according to our Laws; and these depend of the particular case.