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Thread of copyright action over Facebook Group


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Good day to you all. This is a little unusual but I hope someone can advise me on my legal position?

 

About a year ago I started a Facebook group, it turned out to be quite popular and so I appointed some members as administrators to help me run it. One of these administrators asked me if it would be OK for him to design a new header/logo for the group to which I agreed. He designed it using a proprietry computer program, used public domain and royalty free images, the name of the Facebook group and also the accompanying website that I also registered the domain in my name.

 

He has now left under a bit of a cloud and has sent me several messages regarding this logo, he has claimed it is his copyright and I have no right to use it. I told him to go take a running jump and continued to use it. He has now threatened legal action and has said I will be hearing from his legal representative. He has made the same threat to the remaining administrators, holding them jointly responsible.

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The simple thing to do would be to change the logo but unfortunately we had it turned into a bumper sticker as well and several members have purchased one, they would quite rightly be a little miffed if we changed it.

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So in summary, am I in breach of copyright even though (a) It contains the name of my group and my website? (b) He designed it whilst working for the group © It is made up of royalty free and public domain material?

.

Your advice would be welcomed.

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Is there anything in writing between you – correspondence etc – which might reveal what the intentions between you were?

 

It is highly likely that your friend/administrator is the owner of the rights in the logo. However, I would say that it would be quite easy to construe an irrevocable license which has been granted to you and because it refers specifically to the brand of your Facebook group, it would be exclusive to you.

 

It's up to you how you want to deal with it, but most people who start threatening these kinds of action have absolutely no idea what they're saying or how they would begin such thing – or the likely cost etc – and so frankly I would ignore it all until you get the first letter from a solicitor or some court document and then you can come back here and we will help you to put together a response.

 

If you wanted, you might want to write a simple and informal note to him simply saying that you're sorry that he feels that way and that you disagree but that if he wants to take it further then you're happy to receive any official papers that he cares to send you.

 

I think that this drops it squarely in his court and he will realise that his bluff has been called.

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There is also the question of jurisdiction. Many internet groups are spread across multiple continents with each country having their own procedures for copyright disputes. The expense of pursuing a claim is often beyond the financial resources of one individual.

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Thats pretty much what I have done BankFodder, but he has been making the same threats to the other admin members. I am happy to take him on but can he really drag them into it as well?

 

Yes, even more interesting. I suppose that he would have to sue the Facebook group – as a kind of partnership. This makes it even more complicated for him – unless he can identify one particular person as the owner of the group and the others simply as assistants.

 

Are your fellow administrators getting weak in the knees about this?

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Apparently the guy has now set up a Facebook group with exactly the same name as my group, this he claims give him the justification to sue me because he wants the logo for his own new group. What he seems to have forgotten however is that the logo contains my web site address, and he certainly cannot set the same website address.

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The main point is that he provided the image on a voluntary basis as part of the Facebook group and did not apply any conditions over its usage.

 

It would be a bit like someone on CAG deciding that their voluntary contribution to the site, by writing a template letter or responding to posts had some monetary value at a later date, after they had ended their membership of the site.

 

It is an interesting subject as to whether there will be any legal claims over social media contributions at some future date. I could see someone posting something on say Twitter which then becomes massive worldwide thinking that Twitter should compensate them in some way. I have not read Twitter terms and conditions, but i expect them to include some legal wording to cover their backsides.

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No BankFodder, they seem to be right behind me. With regards to group ownership, I set it up so I assume its mine, I appointed the administrators shortly after.

I was discussing this on my group page, in general, no names mentioned, when someone made a throwaway comment that "the bloke wants shooting". He has got wind of this and now claims he will pass this onto his solicitor as it was a clear death threat, well (a) It wasn't and (b) It wasn't me. I think he is losing the plot.

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He wants .... :lol:

 

I would suggest he wants adding to everyones killfile (no, that is not a death threat).

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Did you actually employ the administrators? Was there a contract of employment or contract for services?

 

s11 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 creates a rebuttable presumption (which would need a clear agreement) that copyright ownership over a work created by an employee is first vested in their employer.

 

If these were purely voluntary roles though, that is unlikely to assist.

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