According the The Hollywood Reporter, a lawsuit was filed on Monday against the BET network by Stacy Mattocks alleging tortious interference, breach of contract and breach of good faith as it relates to her creation of a Facebook Fan Page initially dedicated to bringing the show “The Game” back to television.
Mattocks allegedly created this Fan Page in 2008 and to date the page has grown to over six million “Likes” by fellow fans. Once the show was picked up by BET, the Fan Page had already garnered 750,000 likes which made BET very interested in not only utilizing the page as a means of advertising, but also an interest in utilizing Mattocks’ services in advertising and promoting the series.
BET initially offered to pay Mattocks $30 per hour as a social media strategist, which she rejected. Not to be deterred, BET made another offer to bring Mattocks on for an amount not to exceed $85,000 for a year of services. Mattocks again rejected this offer as being entirely too low and also because it would have possibly stripped her of her rights as owner of the page and, according to the lawsuit, BET could have terminated this agreement at any time “with or without cause.”
After more back and forth negotiations, and BET setting up its own unsuccessful Fan Page for the show, Mattocks determined (based upon her own valuation efforts) that her payout was valued at or around $1.2 million dollars. BET then countered this million dollar request with an amount of no more than $50,000 for three years of services, and allegedly the Fan Page was disabled, then enabled, then she was ultimately removed of her rights as manager, negotiations ceased and she thus filed this lawsuit due to an alleged loss of income.
What Does This Mean ?
Tortious interference of business is the act of encouraging a breach, infringing on another’s agreement, interfering with a contract, interfering with contractual commitments, interfering with contractual obligation, interfering with contractual rights, etc. Mattocks is alleging that BET tortiously interfered with her Fan Page agreement with Facebook and also that they breached their agreement in re the services she would continue to provide to BET. Additionally, she is alleging that BET acted in bad faith in having her removed as manager from the page.
Though there was an endless amount of back and forth between both parties regarding how much Mattocks would be paid and which rights she would forfeit over to BET, from the initial information presented it appears Mattocks never accepted any agreement offered by BET.
There are three elements to a valid contract, oral or otherwise. These elements are:
3) Consideration (most times money or promotional value).
All three elements must be met. Once BET offered money in return for services to Mattocks and she counters the offer seeking more, there is no agreement. A counter to an offer negates the offer and there is no agreement. From the preliminary information provided about this suit, this appears to be the case. BET offered her compensation several times and she rejected it and asked for more.
As it relates to BET allegedly getting the Fan Page shut down, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially with new rules from Facebook in place stating that they can shut a page down for any reason and also as it relates to copyright claims on such a public forum as Facebook.
How does this affect you ?
If you are negotiating with another party, keep in mind that once you counter an offer they have made, said offering party can rescind the first offer. In fact, they can rescind any offer (whether in writing or not) once you counter the offer and even before you accept it.
I believe Mattocks made the “powers that be” upset with the $1.2 million counter offer and they are leaning on their intellectual rights to exercise their power, but again, I am interested to see how Facebook rules will be interpreted, Facebook Copyright claims and also if BET’s actions (alleged) will be found to have interfered with Mattocks’ rights as a creator of a Facebook Fan Page.
I will be tuning in!
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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