Ferrari and 21-Year-Old Racer in Legal Battle Over a Facebook Page
As one of the world’s most esteemed brands, Ferrari is no stranger to getting involved with weird lawsuits. But this time, the Maranello-based company has found itself in a humdinger of a legal battle with a 21-year-old amateur racer. The issue at hand? Control of a Ferrari fan page on Facebook.
According to Bloomberg, 21-year-old Sammy Wasem and his father Olivier have filed a criminal complaint against Ferrari SpA over accusations that the latter engaged in copyright infringement on a Ferrari fan page the younger Wasem started when he was 15 years old. Not to be outdone, Ferrari has also taken the steps to sue the Wasems, claiming that on their part, the two misused the company’s trademark to advertise non-Ferrari merchandise on its website, not to mention touting the brand on items like Wasem’s 18th birthday celebration.
This case is peculiar on so many levels, notwithstanding the obvious oddity of a fight involving a Facebook fan page. But it also has far-reaching consequences to a lot more people, largely because of how it can define the line that crosses violating somebody’s freedom of expression on social media.
As far as Ferrari is concerned, the issue it has is with people who, according to spokesman Stefano Lai, "try to use Ferrari’s intellectual property to make money out of it,” an accusation that the company is apparently throwing the direction of the Wasems despite objections by Olivier Wasem that he and his son made no money selling merchandise on the site.
For them, the fan page was merely an expression of Sammy’s love for the Maranello brand, and when it grew to become one of the biggest Ferrari fan pages on Facebook, it caught the attention of Ferrari, who in turn, sent the Wasems an email on March 2009, informing them that it was "taking over formal administration of the fan page".
At first, the Wasems agreed to turn the site into the official fan page for Ferrari, but on the understanding that they would receive financial compensation for their efforts in improving the fan page. But the money never came, four years after they lost their administration rights, hence, the civil lawsuit that was filed in February 2013, demanding Ferrari to pay them owed compensation, amounting to around $11 million for 5,500 hours of work.
I have a mild issue with the numbers the kid and his dad are tossing out. First of all, 5,500 hours since the age of 15 means that he spent 17 hours per week working on the Facebook page. I find that a little outlandish. Secondly, doing the math on the amount they are suing for and the amount of time spent on the site (per their claims) that amounts out to $2,000 per hour... Yeah, that’s a little much, folks.
As it stands, the case is now in the hands of a Geneva prosecutor who, in turn, will determine what kind of action is going to be taken next.
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