Sammy Wasem was only 15 when he thought it would be a good idea to start a Facebook fan page of his most beloved Italian super car maker, Ferrari SpA. At the time, he didn’t think that the fan page he created would go on to become the most popular car pages on the social networking site.
Six years later, Wasem is in a legal battle with his favourite Italian sports-car maker, in a case that may help define freedman of expression rights in social media. Wasem, an amateur race-car driver, and his father Olivier have filed a criminal complaint against Ferrari SpA, claiming copyright infringement as they lost control of their site.
Ferrari has sued the Wasems, arguing they misused the company’s trademark to advertise non-Ferrari merchandise and for personal messages such as invitations for Wasem’s 18th birthday.
“They dared to take away a kid’s dream,” Sammy Wasem said in an interview. “They have no scruples.”
The case is emblematic of the challenges companies have dealing with copyright and trademark rights on social media. In the years Wasem spent his adolescence building up a marketing tool for Ferrari, social media has grown up as well. Facebook Inc.’s revenue rose 55 percent to $7.87 billion last year.
“The issue isn’t with Facebook or with our fans but with those who try to use Ferrari’s intellectual property to make money out of it,” said Stefano Lai, a spokesman for the Maranello-based carmaker. The company hasn’t been informed of a criminal complaint, he said.
The Wasems made no money selling merchandise on the site, Olivier Wasem remarked.