I compose for fun and profit. I use Facebook all the time but never as a promotional tool, because at this point I haven’t needed to. However, I know many who do so successfully. I also have non-music friends all over the country who don’t really understand what it means to write music for television. I know many of them would love to hear some of my original music. What easier way to do this than post a couple of my favorite original tracks of music on Facebook? I see bands do it all the time. Then I thought about my filing cabinet full of detailed, multi-page, sell-your-soul, music contracts and paused. Maybe I better do some research first…
First let’s take a look at an excerpt from Facebook’s terms of service, taken straight from their website.
Sharing Your Content and Information
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
- 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 at first glance you see that it says “you own all the content and information you post on Facebook“. You are in the clear, right? Not really.
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive
Here’s the problem. You do still own your music but in section one of Sharing Your Content it states that you are granting Facebook a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, world-wide license” to use your intellectual property (meaning your songs and music). Apparently, from what I can tell, they haven’t really taken advantage of this right yet, but are free to do so by the mere fact that you have agreed to their terms of service when you signed up. They can sub-license your music to advertisers without your knowledge and without any compensation at any time in the future.
Here’s why it is a problem. Almost all of my publisher agreements require granting ‘exclusive’ rights to the publisher when I sign a song contract with them. Exclusive rights means other entities can not have any rights to license your work. Uh-oh. If I post a piece of music on Facebook, Facebook then has a non-exclusive agreement with me. Meaning I cannot legally sign an exclusive agreement with anyone else in regards to that piece of music. The terms of service states that you can void this by removing the post containing your music from your timeline, unless of course others have shared it on their timelines – then you are still bound by the agreement. You are not trapped yet, you can still track down every person who shared it and have them remove it from their timelines as well. Yikes, that could be a lot of people if you are a good marketer! If you cannot remove every single instance of the music on Facebook then the non-exclusive agreement is still in effect and you cannot legally sign an exclusive agreement with a publisher. Ouch!!
How does posting music on Facebook effect a band specifically?
Let’s say you are in a band or are a songwriter and are trying to sell your music using Facebook. If you put your music on Facebook to gain a following you may be basically eliminating your ability to sign a future deal with a publisher or label. If you already have a publishing deal, then you probably no longer own the rights to grant the music to Facebook, breaching both your deal with the publisher and with Facebook. You do not want to rock the boat with your publisher – you need them. And if you have breached your contract with Facebook, they can shut down your page cutting off your fans source of band information and show dates. Copyright infringement is no joke.
What’s the answer?
My personal answer is to not post any of my music on Facebook and find other ways to share it. If you do not care that your music can be used without any financial compensation, and are just doing it for fun, then by all means do as you wish. But if you are serious about music (and making money) you really have to think this one through carefully. Who knows? If you ask, maybe your publisher will give you a paragraph in the contract allowing you to post to Facebook and grant them their non-exclusive rights.
Facebook can be a very effective marketing tool so do not stop using it to increase your online profile and build your fan base – it works. I just recommend that you should think twice about what you post when it comes to your music (and that goes for photography as well). Sure other people are posting all kinds of intellectual property illegally every day and are getting away with it – but when it comes to your own music, and your own future, do you really want to take that chance?
If you have any additional insight into this matter or a personal experience please feel free to share it below.
*This is my interpretation of my research into posting music on Facebook, I am not a lawyer. If you unclear of what to do consult a lawyer.
(Image courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net)