BET’s Legal War With ‘The Game’ Fan Ensues
Over the summer, BET got dragged into the middle of an ugly lawsuit with a woman named Stacey Mattocks, the fan responsible for creating the famous Facebook page that urged producers to bring back The Game after the sitcom was canceled by its original network, The CW. Once BET decided to revive the series, they used Stacey and fans like her, who protested against the show’s cancellation, as a means of promoting the show’s return. The page, which was first created in 2008, acquired 750,000 “likes,” later grew by nearly 100,000 “likes” per week as BET promoted the series’ return.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, BET initially offered to pay Stacey $30 per hour as a freelancer for her social media efforts, but they eventually wanted something more permanent, and reportedly offered to pay Stacey $85,000 to promote The Game via social media over a one-year period.
“BET was searching for a more ‘permanent’ way to capitalize on the FB Page and Mattocks’ efforts. Therefore, on December 15, 2010, BET submitted a proposed contract to Mattocks that would have paid her a maximum of $85,000.00 over a one year period. Mattocks declined this offer because it was unreasonably low, would have stripped her of all rights to the FB Page, and, moreover, could have been terminated at any point by BET, with or without cause.”
Once the series premiered, the page garnered 3.3 million “likes”
“In newspaper and magazine articles, Mattocks was credited by BET executives for playing a critical role in reviving interest in the Show and making it a massive success with viewers.”
One issue, however, remained: Stacey refused to relinquish rights to the Facebook page. The struggle continued and in 2011, Stacey even accused the network of having her page deleted by Facebook. Not long after, BET created their own page for the show; however, the page didn’t receive much attention from fans, so they decided to make Stacey another offer— $15,000 for the Facebook and Twitter page that she created. Stacey made a counteroffer for $1.2 million and BET declined. After much back and forth without reaching a resolution, BET sent Stacey a cease and desist letter, requesting that she stop her use of the network’s intellectual property. They also reportedly had Facebook remove Stacey’s page, which is something that she says caused her to lose income, since she formed media partnerships with multiple companies via said page. As a result, the insurance broker sued the television station for tortious interference, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing. She’s also suing for copyright infringement, as she claims the folks over at BET copied content from her page and used it on their own.
After several months of silence, between finally responded to the suit.
“The conversion claim fails at the outset because a ‘Like’ is not personal property in which Plaintiff has any possessory interest. As the Facebook page itself makes clear, a Facebook user who bestows a ‘Like’ upon a piece of content or a Page on Facebook remains in control of the ‘Like’ at all times and is free to ‘Unlike’ the Page or content as the user sees fit… To the extent a ‘Like’ is anyone’s ‘property’ it belongs to the Facebook user…”
“BET did not revoke Plaintiff’s license until Plaintiff admittedly and intentionally ‘demoted’ BET’s administrative rights so that BET could no longer update the Facebook page in its ‘sole discretion.’ Plaintiff’s allegations do not allege a breach of the terms of the contract and further show that Plaintiff herself breached the license agreement, thereby relieving BET from any obligations thereunder.”
It will be pretty interesting to see how this all plays out. Thoughts?
Jazmine Denise is an entertainment and celebrity news blogger. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise.