Category Archives: Info resource

Facebook can do whatever it wants with your intellectual property

By using Facebook, you turn over rights to your intellectual property (IP), giving Facebook permission to do whatever it wants to with it. Seriously, anything. At, in section 2, point 1, “Sharing your content and information,” this is stated quite clearly.

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.

Photographs come first to mind as the kind of content that FB might make good use of. Probably other services such as Flikr offer better platforms for publishing photographs. Nonetheless I am sure that many of the snapshots posted to FB are, either by design or accident, excellent. Although it is not my area of expertise I can think of some business opportunities. For $30 or so at the Apple Store I can buy royalty-free clip art. This would not even require that the photos be any good. The standard for coffee table books is astonishingly low. Barbequing, sunsets, fishing trips, friendship. Now that I think of it, I am sure that there are many people who would pay $1.99 for, say, three months access to a database of profile photos. Users create a folksonomy to organize them. I conjecture that most terms will be concentrated on giving users access to images that satisfy the voyeuristic impulses of men ages 16–35, a central use of technology for generations. Consider “coed, blond, upskirt, swimsuit. MILF, spring break.” This in turn is sold back to application developers. I doubt that facebook’s robots will identify the Great American Novel as it is being written in facebook notes, but if they do, its author has already given that content away.

To be fair, any provider of social networking applications, blogs, and any other platform for publishing material provided by users will need to claim substantial rights to store, copy, and transfer user content. The service will copy user-created information from server to server, for instance, in the course of normal operations. Some of the back end may be oursourced, requiring the transfer of user data to a third party. The data will be backed up by these providers, in turn.

Nonetheless, a license open-ended as facebook’s is not, apparently, required for this. Blogger and both limit the license they claim for themselves. Blogger’s terms of service,, point 6, “Intellectual Property Rights:”

By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services. terms of service,, point 8:

By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog.

Looking at the Facebook terms of service Section 2, point 3, it appears that applications can set their own IP policies.

When you use an application, your content and information is shared with the application. We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.  (To learn more about Platform, read our Privacy Policy and Platform Page.)

I would also like to point out that “To learn more about Platform” is abhorrent from a stylistic point of view. It’s as if I named my laptop “Laptop,” and then started saying “when I power up Laptop, it makes a pleasant chime.”

WikiWashed by WikiLeaks

“Greenwashing” is explained by the Greenwashing Index as “a company or organization spend[ing] more time and money claiming to be ‘green’ through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.” Hannah Klein Connolly offers a similar account of pinkwashing: “the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer while engaging in practices that may be contributing to rising rates of the disease.”

Taking greenwashing and pinkwashing as models, I define “Wikiwashing” as “representing a web site that is not a wiki as being a wiki.” What makes a web site a wiki is that anyone in the group of people primarily intended as the audience and user base of the wiki can edit the wiki web site. Ward Cunningham, a wiki pioneer, describes the wiki in the following manner:

A wiki is a body of ideas that a community is willing to know and  maintain. That community has every right to be cautiously selective  in what it will groom. This particular wiki [Cunningham’s] has been blessed with thoughtful, diligent, diverse and open-minded volunteers, who have  invested years learning what works here and what doesn’t. When volunteers tire and depart, others take their place. I remain amazed  that this works without mechanically enforced authority. Possibly it  works because there is no mechanically enforced authority. In any  event, I remain grateful to all volunteers, past, present and future.

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OBO Foundry announces approved ontologies

The OBO Foundry has just announced that a set of ontologies have been reviewed, and have been found to be compliant with OBO Foundry principles. The approved ontologies include the following.

Chemical Entities of Biological Interest
Gene Ontology
Phenotypic Quality Ontology
Protein Ontology
Xenopus Anatomy Ontology
Zebrafish Anatomy Ontology

These ontologies are intended to represent a broad range of biological phenomena without overlapping with one another, and so are intended to be used in a modular fashion by a variety of researchers. Developing these ontologies helps the research community as a whole by improving these multi-purpose classification tools.

Other ontologies are being reviewed at present, and it is anticipated at the Foundry that these will also be approved, pending revision.

The OBO Foundry has announced that ”we will be publishing a revised set of principles which will be applied in future reviews in the period following the February 2010 OBO Foundry meeting,” noting that ”At every stage, these are best conceived as a set of guidelines designed to promote evolutionary improvement in the ontologies; like the ontologies themselves, these principles will always be subjected to further review in the future.”