Both Facebook and Ferrari have been sued over the ownership of a fan Facebook Page. According to the lawsuit,
The Wasems spent years and countless hours building something valuable two Facebook fan pages that attracted millions of fans (more than 16 million to date) and generated tremendous exposure for Ferrari and Ferrari wanted it. So,with Facebook’s knowledge and substantial assistance, Ferrari took it, and they have both profited from what the Wassems created. Industry experts have estimated that the value to a company of a commercial Facebook page ranges from an average of $174 per fan to more than $1,000 per fan for luxury brands in the automobile industry. This action seeks damages against Ferrari and Facebook for their wrongful conduct in taking something that didn’t belong to them.
As more and more individuals realize the financial value in certain social media accounts/pages, I expect to see more disputes about ownership. Last month, I reported about a case in which the parties were fighting over the ownership of Facebook “Likes.” The court in that case determined that those who maintain Facebook pages don’t necessarily have a property interest in the “likes” on that page. According to the trial judge in Mattocks v. BET,
“liking” 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. Cf. Bland, 730 F.3d at 385-86 (holding that public employee’s“like” of political-campaign page was a protected form of free speech and expression). 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.