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Facebook Fan Pages Causing Conflict Between Admins and Brands

Creating a fan page on Facebook for your favorite show, sports team or band is not an uncommon thing to do, and anyone with a Facebook account can create a page. But problems have arisen when the page has become so popular that the brand itself wants some involvement.

Ferrari has become the latest brand to find themselves engaged in a legal dispute, after they and Facebook were sued last week by a father and son from Switzerland. The disagreement centers around what is now the official Ferrari Facebook page, but was started by Olivier and Sammy Wasem in 2008.

The lawsuit alleges that Ferrari, aided by Facebook, breached a contract with the Wasems over control of the page and are now profiting from their creation. The pair struck a deal with Ferrari in 2009 to work on the page together, which at the time had 500,000 fans. Their collaboration ended in 2012 when the page had increased to 9m fans; as of now it has 16m.
This latest lawsuit is just part of a legal battle that first started in early 2013, whilst the dispute stems from mid-2012. This is when Ferrari revoked the admin privileges of the Wasems, and took sole control of the page themselves.

The lawsuit demands that Ferrari pay the Wasems at least 50% of the value of the page, and citing an independent study have suggested that each fan of the page is worth a very generous $1,000, valuing the page at around $16 billion. The Wasems also want to be reinstated as admins.

The contracts that were signed by the Wasems and Ferrari will undoubtedly play an important role in the resolution of this case, and plenty of keen observers will be watching on with interest as it might continue a trend. Unfortunately for the Swiss pair, a precedent has been set in a similar case recently involving a fan page for the TV show ‘The Game’.
the game
The case is very similar to the Ferrari one. Stacey Mattocks created a fan page in 2008; in 2010 Black Entertainment Television (BET) hired Mattocks part-time to work on the page in an agreement which gave BET full admin rights; Mattocks later revoked these rights, leading BET to terminate their agreement, set up their own official page and ask Facebook to migrate the fans over; Facebook removed her page which led to the lawsuit.

The court ruled that Facebook likes cannot constitute a property as users are free to revoke them at any time. Not only will the Wasems be fortunate to receive any compensation from Ferrari, but they may struggle to win the lawsuit against the might of Ferrari and Facebook, and with this previous ruling.

The moral of the story – if you create a fan page successful enough that the brand wants some involvement, you should be flattered but also careful about any agreements you sign.

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Ignacio Cassinelli