November 12, 2013 2:42pm PT by Eriq Gardner
BET Ridicules Woman's Lawsuit Over Allegedly Stolen Facebook 'Likes'
BET has finally responded to a lawsuit filed by Stacey Mattocks, who has been credited with helping The Game premiere to a stunning 7.7 million viewers in January 2012.
Mattocks, an insurance agent as well as a social media maven, created a Facebook page when the show was on The CW and worked to get the show back on air when it was canceled. In July, after the show about the lives of professional football players had been relaunched by BET, she filed a lawsuit against the cable network that detailed how her Facebook page for the show became enormously popular and how BET had wined and dined her as a result. According to her complaint, BET interfered with her relationship with Facebook and breached an agreement with the aim of taking control over the Facebook page that she had created.
Last month, Mattocks added a novel claim to her lawsuit. Through her own activities, she said, the Facebook page for the show had garnered 6.78 million "likes" by the time it was taken down in August 2012. BET allegedly instructed Facebook to take those "likes" from her show page and transfer them to the network's official page. This, she maintains, is unlawful conversion.
Responding on Tuesday to the allegation it stole Facebook "likes," BET tells a Florida federal court:
"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..."
Besides the discussion over who -- if anyone -- owns Facebook "likes," this litigation has the potential of blazing trails in other ways.
Mattocks alleges in her lawsuit that BET's directive to Facebook to remove her page under allegedly false pretenses constitutes tortious interference. She says that BET has no justification to get between a contractual relationship between herself and Facebook
But BET responds that under Florida law, a party has the privilege to act in its own financial interests. The network says it has already been conceded that "it was seeking to protect its intellectual property by halting what it concluded was Plaintiff’s unauthorized use of that property." Thus, the cable network believes the tortious interference claim fails.
The network also goes into the nitty gritty of Mattocks' struggle over a Facebook page that at one point was jointly operated. How could something like a fan-created, co-operated TV show social media asset ever go wrong? Hmm, here's just a taste of the madness from the network's legal papers.
"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."