This is a story that dates back to four years ago when a German court found that Facebook’s terms and conditions did not address the circumstances in which users intellectual property could be used by Facebook or even licensed to third parties. That still seems to be an issue as a regional court in Berlin found that Facebook still hasn’t changed their terms and conditions to properly reflect these concern and in return, they were slapped with a €100,000 fine.
The complaint was originally filed by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) and the court agreed that Facebooks terms and conditions weren’t clear on the issue. Naturally Facebook complied with the request, or at least partially. They did change the wording of the statement on intellectual property in the terms, but according to this new ruling, the message remained the same. Now Facebook has to write them a small check for the amount of hundred thousand Euros while they still need to change their wording and make it clear to the users when they give up their intellectual rights.
This ruling comes just a week after Mark Zuckerberg visited Berlin where he got the first ever Axel Springer Award for entrepreneurship and innovation. If timed better, he could have paid the fine before heading home again. Jokes aside, terms and conditions for software usage are, generally speaking, a nightmare for any user to navigate and understand. For the most part, they are written in ambiguous ways that benefit the creator rather than the user and in such lengths that barely anyone bothers to read it before they agree. This is a huge problem in my opinion and I hope that we’ll see more companies fined for bad practices in this area. Maybe one day we’ll actually understand what we agree to.
While the court’s ruling stated that the problem was with the wording, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We complied with the order to clarify a single provision in our terms concerning an IP license a while ago. The court felt we did not update our terms quickly enough and has issued a fine, which we will pay.”
I’m sure that this isn’t the last time that we hear about this issue.