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I am a copyright violator, and Facebook knows it. At least, I was up until early this morning, when Facebook took action to enforce the copyright on the cover photo I had uploaded the day before.
As a fan of the UK show Doctor Who, I was excited to see BBC America release a couple of preview photos from the program's Christmas special, including a compelling picture of a couple of scary-looking snowmen -- very Nightmare Before Christmas stuff. As with other notable pop culture events, I wanted to share my excitement on Facebook.
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The thing that provoked the strongest reaction was the photo itself, and it happened to be the perfect dimensions as my cover photo, I chose to use it there. What better way to share my enthusiasm for the show, and maybe convince a few Facebook users to check it out?
The photo stayed put for the rest of the day I uploaded it. But when I woke up the next morning, it was gone.
I looked in the album of my cover photos. It was still there. I began to upload another photo and saw this message:
Pick a unique photo from your life to feature at the top of your timeline. Note: This space is not meant for banner ads or other promotions. Please don't use content that is commercial, promotional, copyright-infringing or already in use on other people's covers.
That message is the boilerplate that you see whenever your cover pic is empty. I don't believe I saw this when Facebook first introduced Timeline. Indeed, Facebook's Help page on cover photos doesn't mention copyright at all.
It's unlikely the BBC would take issue with the fact that I wanted to express my excitement about one of their shows to all my friends and followers. After all, this was a press photo -- one that the channel distributes for the express purpose of getting in front of as many potential viewers as possible.
I also manage a Facebook Page, the one for Mashable Tech. When the Page has no cover photo, and you try to add one, you see a slightly different message:
Pick a unique photo to feature at the top of your Page timeline. Note: This space is not meant for promotions, coupons, or advertisements. Your cover photo should not be primarily text-based or infringe on anyone else's copyright. Learn More about choosing a cover photo.
The difference in wording is subtle, but important. For any brand Page, it's hard to imagine the a cover photo that isn't at least a little bit "commercial" or "promotional." But brands are given some leeway -- a good thing for Mashable's Tech page since we often upload photos of gadgets we recommend.
Individuals, apparently, aren't granted such latitude.
I'm not taking serious issue with what Facebook is trying to do here, just the way in which they did it. Though the notion of a copyright violation in this case is ridiculous, I appreciate the spirit of what the policy upholds. If everyone were allowed to upload album covers or movie posters, Facebook cover photos (which are public and visible by anyone, whether they're on Facebook or not) would become a massive, tacky catalog of pop culture, the digital equivalent of the Las Vegas Strip. Or worse, MySpace.
Still, I never got so much as a note from Facebook about what they did. The only clue as to what happened came after the fact. The company also took the unusual liberty of deleting the caption I wrote for the pic. Clearly, the process has room for improvement.
Has Facebook ever removed your cover photo? What did you upload, and how did you feel about the removal? Share your experiences in the comments.
BONUS: 10 Great Facebook Cover Photos for the Holidays
1. Ornamental by Fcoverphotos
This design's great grungy tones give it a contemporary feel.
This story originally published on Mashable here.