9:00am PT by Eriq Gardner
Teen Who Created OMGFacts Twitter Feed Sues, Claiming Swindle (Exclusive)
A story of the times: Teenager creates Twitter feed, OMGFacts, which publishes titillating tidbits about celebrities and pop culture. His tweets become so popular that he's approached by a digital development company that wishes to transform teenager's millions of followers into a lucrative entertainment channel on YouTube with merchandising potential. Now, the mother of the teenager is suing, saying OMGFacts' creator, Adorian Deck, has only gotten $100 for his efforts, while the company, Spartz Inc., has grabbed control of the intellectual property.
In the years that Twitter has burgeoned into a popular social media platform, it has also become a good place for creative people to showcase their talent, leading to one Hollywood development deal after another. No surprise then that the "Twitter Gold Rush" has prompted the same kind of copyright and accounting battles often seen in La-La Land.
According to a complaint filed by the Deck family in federal court yesterday, Adorian Deck, who turns 18 next month, created OMGFacts in 2009. The Twitter feed is now approaching 2 million followers with amusing factoids like, "J.K. Rowling chose the unusual name 'Hermione' so young girls wouldn’t be teased for being nerdy!" and "Weezer's first gig was opening for Keanu Reeves' band."
The Decks say that in February 2010, they were approached by Emerson Spartz, who sought permission to commence running a website and YouTube channel utilizing the trademark. The parties signed a joint partnership agreement, which Deck now says "turned out to be nothing more than an artifice of self-dealing."
The deal is said to have entitled Deck to profits for merchandising and a share of YouTube revenue, but allegedly didn't require Spartz to disclose those revenues. The contract is also said to have assigned Spartz Inc. “any copyright in any existing or future works" for OMGFacts.
Having only gotten a paltry $100 for his efforts, Deck is attempting to cancel the contract as "unconscionable and unenforceable," particularly because Adorian Deck was a minor. Deck is asking a judge for declaratory relief plus damages for unfair competition and false advertising.
Spartz has given us a response.
He says that Adorian's mother, Marylou, was involved in negotiations and signed the deal for her son as a legal guardian. At the time of signing, OMGFacts had some 300,000 followers, and Spartz says he's invested significant effort to grow the operation into a respectable Web entity with a burgeoning audience. Spartz alleges that Adorian has been "almost completely uninvolved" since the 2010 deal, but acknowledges that the teen founder continues to hold a stake in the property.
"The piece he owns is valuable, but it will not generate significant revenues until we start displaying advertising on our videos," says Spartz, adding that whatever revenue has been generated on YouTube has been shared.
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