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Florida Judge Rules That Facebook Likes Aren’t Owned By Page Creators
In tossing suit by fan page creator against BET, judge says " 'likes' cannot be converted in the same manner as goodwill or other intangible business interests."
Can a Facebook Like be owned?
No, according to a ruling by a Florida federal judge who Wednesday turned aside a lawsuit by a woman battling the Black Entertainment Television network over control of social media fan pages for “The Game,” including a Facebook Page with more than 6.2 million Likes.
After the CW network cancelled “The Game” in 2009, Stacey Mattocks, an insurance agent from Florida, is credited with using social media to help resurrect the series about the lives of fictional pro football players and their wives.
When BET brought back the show in 2011, Mattocks’ suit stated; she agreed to become a social media freelancer for the Viacom-owned network. She also entertained a full-time job offer for $85,000 a year from BET and negotiated about a possible outright sale of the Page. BET offered $15,000; Mattocks was looking for $1.2 million.
Eventually, the relationship soured and after Mattocks downgraded BET’s access on the Page to “moderator,” BET asked Facebook to close it down, after transferring its Likes to an official Page for the show. Facebook granted the request, as did Twitter when BET asked it to disable a Mattocks-controlled fan account.
So Mattocks sued and presented expert testimony that the Facebook Likes she helped amass for the Page were worth millions. BET experts countered that they were worth next to nothing.
And Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Cohn sided with BET:
Based on the record, Mattocks cannot establish that she owns a property interest in the “likes” on the FB Page. … “[L]iking” a Facebook Page simply means that the user is expressing his or her enjoyment or approval of the content. At any time, moreover, the user is free to revoke the “like” by clicking an “unlike” button. So if anyone can be deemed to own the “likes” on a Page, it is the individual users responsible for them. Given the tenuous relationship between “likes” on a Facebook Page and the creator of the Page, the “likes” cannot be converted in the same manner as goodwill or other intangible business interests.