On Strips: Opus Shilling for Facebook?

By | Friday, August 14, 2015 1 comment
Many people have been overjoyed that Berkley Breathed has returned to drawing Bloom County, and the response to his new strips has been largely positive. (Although I haven't actively looked for them, I have yet to see any negative comments, even any of the "it's not as sharp as it used to be" variety.) But here's another thought I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: these are all being posted online via Facebook. And while it's Breathed's original art and he owns the copyright, let me post Facebook's Terms of Service relative to the posting of images...
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.
So what this says is that Facebook can use any of the Bloom County strips that Breathed posts for whatever they want to do with them. Theoretically, this could include advertisements or the publication of a Bloom County book. I don't think the resolution Breathed is posting the images at would transfer well onto the printed page, but that's not the point here. The point is that Breathed, by posting the images to Facebook, is giving them a license to use it how they see fit.

That's true of all the images we all post there, of course, but I'm fairly confident that a sweaty selfie of me halfway through a six-mile run isn't going to be of interest to anyone outside of a very select group. Most of the images we post are context-specific -- that is, you have to know who the person is and why they're posting what they're posting for it to be of any real use.

But a comic strip like Bloom County is largely has all the context that's needed in the strip itself. It's a self-contained story that makes sense regardless if you know who drew it or why.
Here's the other thing. If Facebook does decide to start using Opus to shill for them by reusing Breathed's strips, and Breathed decides to cancel his account or delete all the strips, Facebook can continue to use them. Because this is Bloom County we're talking about; each strip that's been posted so far has been shared an average of 8,000 times. And, as noted in the TOS above, there's a handy "unless your content has been shared with others" clause. So unless you can get each of those 8,000 people to delete every strip they've shared, it's still fair game as far as Facebook is concerned.

Breathed doesn't seem overly concerned about generating money out of his new Bloom County work at the moment, but I suppose the question is whether he's okay with Facebook doing that even if he doesn't. And in an era where it's dirt cheap and relatively easy to set up your own site where there's none of the legal concerns I'm bringing up here, it's curious to me why Breathed would choose to host his new strip on Facebook.
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Matt K said...

I'm guessing that his attitude is similar to everyone else's using Facebook: Probably isn't giving it a lot of thought, and if the issue is considered, concludes "well, it's low odds that Facebook would severely abuse their ToS in a way that significantly harms me."

If so I can't say that he's wrong, either. If Facebook were ever tempted to help itself to Bloom County artwork, what would they conceivably gain that would be worth the inevitable internet shaming? The story would be tailor made for our content mill world.

I still wouldn't do it… but, then, I don't use the site at all.