BET Ducks Claim From Facebook Page Manager
(CN) - A woman whose Facebook fan page for BET program "The Game" was shut down after she tried to restrict the network's access does not have a case for breach of contract, a federal judge ruled.
Though the fan page Stacey Mattocks created in 2008 for "The Game" had started out as unofficial, Black Entertainment Television contacted Mattocks in 2011 after learning of the page and hired her on a part-time basis to manage the site for it and use exclusive BET content.
As the number of "likes" on the Facebook page grew from around 2 million to more than 6 million while Mattocks worked for BET, Mattocks agreed to grant the network administrative access, allowing it to update the page at its sole discretion.
BET in turn agreed not to exclude Mattocks from the page by changing her administrative rights.
While Mattocks was negotiating the possibility of a full-time contract with BET in June 2012, however, Mattocks informed the network that she would restrict its access to the page "until such time as we can reach an amicable and mutually beneficial resolution" concerning her employment.
When BET heard of its loss in access it asked Facebook to remove the page and migrate the likes over to its new page. Facebook complied and Twitter also shut down an account Mattocks used to promote the series.
Mattocks in turn sued the network for breach of contract and tortuous interference, but BET responded that it Mattocks breached the contract first by restricting its access to the Facebook page.
U.S. District Judge James Cohn granted the network summary judgment Wednesday because Florida contract law excuses a breach of contract after one party has already broken the agreement.
As for the claim that BET acted in bad faith by not letting her cure the breach, Cohn noted that the agreement did not contain any requirement for BET to let Mattocks resolve her action.
Mattocks likewise does not have a case for conversion since she did not actually own the "likes" on the Facebook page, according to the ruling. Such ownership belongs to the individual users who click like.
"Even if Mattocks could claim an ownership interest in the 'likes' on the FB Page, she cannot demonstrate that BET's migration request was unauthorized or wrongful," Cohn wrote.
The court also found no evidence indicating "that BET's request [to Facebook] violated any other legal duty to Mattocks."
"While BET may also have had other financial motives in disabling the Page and Twitter account, no record evidence shows that BET took these steps for purely malicious reasons," Cohn wrote. "And though Mattocks claims that BET removed the Page and account "under false pretenses," she has produced no substantial evidence that Facebook's and Twitter's decisions to shut down the services were ultimately based on anything other than the companies' policies protecting brand owners' rights. BET is therefore entitled to summary judgment on Mattocks' tortious interference claims."
BET has aired at least three new seasons of "The Game," a dramatic comedy about the lives of professional football players and their wives and girlfriends, since January 2011.
The CW Network aired three earlier seasons from 2006 to 2009, and BET acquired the syndication rights to those seasons after the show's 2009 cancelation.