If someone posts material on Facebook, I can freely use it, right? Even for promotional purposes. Isn’t material posted on Facebook or elsewhere online considered public domain?
My Response to the Question
Here are some general principles applicable to your question:
Facebook Material Is Not Public Domain. No, it is not public domain material just because someone posts their material to Facebook, to a blog, to an email discussion list or elsewhere online.
Fair Use Analysis Applies. In theory, whether or not you can quote from someone’s Facebook page should be determined by the same analysis used to determine whether or not you can quote from any other printed material. Depending on how much of the Facebook material you use and how you use it, the fair use exception to copyright protection may apply. Unfortunately, fair use determinations are very subjective and case-specific. There is no bright line rule that tells you when something does or does not qualify as a fair use.
Facebook Can Use Material Posted on Facebook. It may interest you to note that while you don’t have an automatic right to use what someone else writes on Facebook, Facebook itself does have that right. When you post copyright-protected content (e.g., your writing, photos, videos, etc.), you automatically grant Facebook a non-exclusive license to use that content on or in connection with Facebook.
For More Information on Fair Use, the Public Domain, and Using Quotes
I discuss these topics quite a bit in my Guide Through the Jungle publications and blogs. Here are a few blog postings you might find helpful: