Ferrari Deals With Lawsuit for Control Over Facebook Fan Page image

Owner of Ferrari fan page on Facebook sued Ferrari SpA after they lost control of the page.

Sammy Wasem was only 15 when he thought it would be a good idea to start a Facebook fan page for Ferrari, with no clued that it would become the most popular car pages on the social network. Six years have passed since then and now Wasem and his father are in a legal battle with their favorite Italian sports car maker. This case might help define what it is the freedom of expression rights in social media.

Sammy and Olivier Wasem, his father, have sued Ferrari SpA, claiming copyright infringement after they lost control of their page. Ferrari has sued the family, saying that they used the automaker’s trademark to advertise other merchandise than the company’s and also for personal purposes such as inviting people to Warren’s 18th birthday.

“They dared to take away a kid’s dream,” Sammy Wasem said in an interview. “They have no scruples.”

This is not the first time when a company deals with such a situation. Unfortunately, there is a high risk of entering lengthy legal battles which might lead to a backlash from fans. Such was the case with Nestle SA in 2010 with a Greenpeace video posted on YouTube which said that the company’s palm oil sourcing was killing rain forests.

Back in 2009 Ferrari sent an e-mail to the Wasems congratulating them for reaching 500,000 fans in less than a year, but then saying that “unfortunately legal issues force us in taking over the formal administration of the fan page.” According to Joris van Manen, a lawyer in Amsterdam, those who create fan pages have the right to claim copyright on their work and contributions.

“Now each time it’s a balancing act: will we go after that or just leave it like that because the risk for negative publicity is too big,” said Stijn Debaene, a lawyer specialized in intellectual property law at theBrusselsoffice of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.