Judge Says Facebook Likes Aren’t The Property of Page Creators

Judge Says Facebook Likes Aren’t The Property of Page Creators

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Can TV networks take over Facebook fan pages? A lawsuit in the US suggests as much.

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A Florida federal judge made social media history on Wednesday, determining that the woman who created a Facebook page for TV series The Game can’t establish she owns a property interest in some 6.2 million likes she amassed.

Stacey Mattocks, an insurance agent, is credited with helping to revive the show about the lives of professional football players and their significant others. Following its cancellation in 2009 by The CW, Mattocks started a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and eventually, the show landed at BET.

But in June 2014, after a dispute arose over who should control the Facebook fan page going forward, Mattocks sued the Viacom-owned cable channel for allegedly committing tortious interference, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and copyright infringement. She later amended the lawsuit to add a claim of unlawful conversion.

According to Mattocks’ lawsuit, BET originally agreed to pay her $30 per hour to work as a social media “freelancer,” but then sought a permanent way to capitalize on her efforts. The cable network offered her an $85,000-a-year salary, which she rejected as too low. But after BET “wined and dined” her and flew her out to Los Angeles for promotional interviews, she became somewhat more receptive, especially after Facebook temporarily disabled her account when she refused to transfer ownership of the fan page to the network.

Mattocks then entered into a “Letter Agreement” with BET. The cable network agreed that she wouldn’t be excluded from the page, and Mattocks agreed to grant BET full administrative access. Mattocks says she executed the agreement fearing that her account would otherwise be disabled.

The lawsuit also spoke of negotiations by BET to buy the page outright. The offer was $15,000; Mattocks wanted $1.2 million.

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