Jenner & Block

Firm Wins Victory for Viacom in Dispute over Facebook Fan Page Regarding The Game

The firm won a victory for client Viacom when a Florida federal judge granted summary judgment in what may be the first case of its kind relating to who owns Facebook “likes.”  At issue was a dispute between the Viacom-owned BET cable network and the creator of a Facebook fan page for the BET series The Game over who should control the Facebook page.  The page creator, whose campaign was credited with reviving the series on BET after another network cancelled it, demoted BET’s access to the page when negotiations between her and the network to hire her as a social media "freelancer” or buy the page outright fell apart.  BET then asked Facebook to “migrate” fans of the page to a BET-created official Series Page, which it did; Facebook then shut down the original page and its creator sued BET.  During litigation, the page creator argued that she owned the 6.2 million Facebook “likes” the page had accrued and that they were worth several million dollars.  On August 20, 2014, U.S. District Judge James Cohn ruled that the page creator “cannot establish that she owns a  property interest in the ‘likes’ on the FB page.”  The judge dismissed the complaint in its entirety and terminated her tortious interference, breach of contract and conversion claims.  The team representing Viacom includes Partners Susan J. Kohlmann, Luke C. Platzer and Scott B. Wilkens; Associate Erica L. Ross; and Project Assistant Francis J. Aul.  News of the ruling was reported in The Hollywood Reporter and Yahoo! TV.