Rest in peace, PhotoJacker. This application for downloading large numbers of photos from Facebook has ceased and desisted in compliance with a legal notice from the social network.
This was actually the second cease-and-desist maneuver that the application has complied with. The first had asked the program’s developer, Arthur A. Sabintsev, to change the name from its original FacePAD:Face Book Photo Album Downloader to PhotoJacker: Photo Album Downloader for Face Book.
After the latest cease-and-desist letter, the application has disappeared from the web. However, the fan page for the tool remains on the social network, but the links to the software lead to a webpage explaining what happened.
Basically Facebook’s legal department decided that PhotoJacker can compromise users’ privacy. The software also conflicts with the social network’s rules requiring third-party applications to request permission before copying content uploaded to people’s profiles. The application can also infringe other people’s copyrights, which would put both the developer and the website at risk of getting sued.
Now Facebook’s legal department did suggest that developer Sabintsev include the social network’s code for requesting user permissions and then PhotoJacker would be able to remain on the site. The creator would rather find a way to make the software available to the public via other means than conform to the API, as he declares on his site:
Facebook is extremely upset that I can achieve this photo-downloading functionality without using their API. I like to think of it as getting punished for being clever (hehe). Essentially, they are also fearful that I am exploiting some type of loophole in Facebook, which I’m not. All I do is use a few XMLHttpRequests() and some built in Firefox functions to achieve the functionality. Anyone with a bit of AJAX knowledge will attest to there being nothing malicious or wrong with this method… I was considering putting this code in the Public Domain, but even then, I’ll still be in some legal grey area, which is not somewhere I want to be. If someone can walk me through this procedure (and prove to me that I will not be approached again by Facebook or any other organization), I will happily release the code under any copyleft license.
I wonder how much of his attitude on this takes influence from his provenance — although he lives in the U.S. now, he hails from somewhere that has less regulation of copyrights. But Facebook’s legal policies need to conform to the company’s location, at least in this particular context.
What do you think of developer Sabintsev’s attitude toward Facebook’s API?