The End of Facebook as an Emerging Artist’s Promotion Tool

This week The Next posted a alarming story of how several prominent Facebook pages were deleted for unspecified copyright infringement complaints. The episode gave a rare window into the mind of Facebook, their polices and how easy the gift of a free fan-magnet can have serious hidden costs for artists.

Moses Avalon
How would you like to wake up one morning and check your Facebook page to see that you’ve gone from 10,000 fans– to zero? Scary? It could happen quite easily if someone was to complain that your page was infringing on their copyright. You may ask, wouldn’t the complainant need proof? No. In fact, according to the recent events re: theArs Technica incident, you don’t even need a Facebook account.

One anonymous complaint is all it took to sentence several prominent Facebook fan pages to sleep with the fishes. These pages were allegedly posting infringing work and/or promotional links to copyrights they did not control. In the speed of a mouse-click, their fans, data, email logs and all evidence of their Facebook existence, vanished. Facebook didn’t specify what items were infringing or tell the creators of the removed pages who the complaints came from. Their accounts were just GONE, with no human to whom an appeal could be made.

Now, to artists this might seem like a bonanza. Facebook–an ISP–giving the heavy hammer against infringement to creators of content, but upon closer examination, all is not rosy.

If Facebook is going to take a zero-tolerance policy about alleged infringement, regardless of degree or investigation, artists could end up in a potentially worse situation than when ISPs turned a blind eye to copyright issues. How so?


Not focused upon much in the main-stream media, is the fact that record labels and artists can have intense rivalries. Extreme cases are stories like the East Coast/West Coast beef of the rap world that took the lives of artists Biggie Smalls and Tu Pac, but many other animosities exist that are far more subtle.

Some famous songwriters, for example, disapprove of certain artists and enforce their own interpretation of the compulsory license and fair use provisions in the Copyright Act to shut down legal covers of their songs.

Many demos use un-cleared audio samples temporarily as well as bits of melodies, guitar riffs as part of the creative process.  In fact, the artist development process is rife with corner-cutting infringements that are necessary to grease the wheels of progress. But, with Facebook as enforcers, every copyright-commando has a weapon that requires only a keyboard and a beef to road-block a developing product.

–Acts, fighting over logo design or a group name in a territory, could use an anonymous complaint to suspend or completely remove their rival’s account.

–A label, could agree to license a sample to another label for a test release, then “change their mind,” after its posted for review.

–Authors of hits can object to a badly recorded versions of their “masterpiece.”

In each case, such content owners could bypass the expensive and slow legal process with an simple infringement complaint to Facebook, and instantly vaporize the many fans an emerging artist worked so hard to aggregate on the Social Network.


No one. Most every form of pop-music uses melodies, samples, and components of previous sound recordings. It’s virtually unavoidable, especially if you’re producing rap, R&B pop or hip hop, where samples or a “collage”of  tracks are a part of your creative process.

If removal of a fan page and all its valuable data is probable, with only an email-based appeal process, then more transparency is needed in the court of FaceBook.

For a company that has built their $50 Billion dollar value on content submitted by emerging artists and average Joes (who do not understand intellectual property) a more precise method of determining the actionability of infringement accusations should be a priority.

Until that time relying on a Facebook account for street-cred or building a fan-base might be mistake. Many PR and marketing gurus have warned about this in the past, and the ones who have been using FaceBook as the tent-poll of their methods now know why. One PR friend of mine put it this way, “Everyone is rethinking the big blue F.”

Have you or some artist you know had their Facebook page removed due to infringement accusations? Speak out.

Mo out.

12 responses to “The End of Facebook as an Emerging Artist’s Promotion Tool”

  1. colin seeger says:

    Facebook appears to be suffering from “growing too fast for its policy department” syndrome. It’s not surprising. They are being used for un-intended purposes by far more people than they ever in their wildest business plans ever projected and they are scared of upsetting the big end of town. They’d be a lot sillier than I’d expect, if they did not take the considered view that, on balance, upsetting a few thousand powerless proles in order not to upset any of the very well connected and influential media companies, is a sensible business survival strategy. They can’t afford the diversion of a bruising battle with the major established content providers.

    Eventually they will have to adapt but this policy of shoot first and don’t ask questions, will need to be amended eventually. The Takedown system works well enough for Youtube et al but maybe Facebook just can’t be bothered. There’s too much money to be made from growing the platform.


    • Steffen Wade says:

      Colin, that is a really good way of putting it. For their business, it is the sensible way of going at least on the surface and for the time being. I have to wonder though… how many of these “rising acts” and small time groups are going to be ditching the facebook page links being displayed at merch booths and announced on stage? I can say this has deterred me and I no longer make any note of or referral to my musics facebook page at all, because I understand that if someone goes to a dead link, if they even remember it and on a whim actually check it out, they are not going to look further into sourcing your work elsewhere. So that free publicity for facebook from a much larger mass of content creating artists than that of major artists could certainly take a swift blow. It’s interesting though like Moses said, that even with the struggle to keep artists in charge of the creative process, when someone gives us the ability to sort of take it into our own hands, it starts a catfight over who gets to stay in the game. Hey, I guess that’s sort of patriotic, I mean not being able to manage and keep from abusing our own freedom is the real support for needing to be governed. Like you said, they will have to adapt eventually, when the numbers say so.

  2. Dalton Priddy says:

    Youtube has gotten into a mess with millions of copyright violations they can’t control. Maybe Facebook wants no part of this. It’s best to clean yourself often than wait for the grime to build up.
    Facebook should set the standard both in education and enforcement of copyrights.
    Way to go Mark Zuckerberg.

  3. Phil Johnson says:

    They just haven’t done it to someone big enough to make a stink about it yet. And I’m not talking about a real entity like Ars. I mean when they take down Justin Bieber’s page the world will go into a tailspin over it.

    And certainly now that this weakness in their system is becoming known, there will be a ton of copycats trying to get pages taken down over the next few weeks.

    Everyone with a facebook page should, of course, be pulling those fans into their own website and email list. Part of the problem with that though is that facebook fans don’t realize how tenuous a relationship is there. They can be reluctant to sign up for a mailing list because they don’t want duplicate communications or they just prefer to connect on facebook rather than email.

    Page owners will have to start doing some different things to draw people back to a list that can’t be taken from them.

  4. Bruce says:

    Hi Moses,
    This Facebook policy goes against every concept of justice and fairness.
    Didn’t these guys ever hear of the Magna Carta?
    You have a basic right to confront your accuser.
    For Facebook to behave this way and not understand the injustice of taking down pages in this manner really brings into question their basic abilities to understand common decency.
    As I posted on another site, this behavior is like an anonymous person calling the police to say that you burglarized their house; the police then come to your home, arrest you and throw you in jail, and then tell you “work it out with your accuser, and then we’ll release you”.
    The reason that this is causing such a stink is that it goes against due process.
    Makes you wonder if the Facebook people paid attention in Social Studies class when they were supposed to be studying the Constitution.
    This policy will unquestionably change, but it’s disturbing that Facebook would ever conduct themselves in this way at all….

  5. randy says:

    actually Moses, this sounds EXACTLY like the juvenlie backstabbing that occurs in the Taiwan music market. some group of songwriters doesn’t like a person/persons outside their circle, so they find ways to accuse/ostracize them from participation.
    FB is highschool mntality at it’s worst. i accuse someone, so they’re in trouble.

  6. jazz cat says:

    Sigh. I can’t believe you would side with copyright-infringers, Mo. Sampling someone else’s work without permission is NOT a necessary part of the *creative* process – the process of *creating* your own work, rather than stealing someone else’s good idea.

    Facebook is not an Internet Service Provider. They do not provide access to the Internet. They’re just another site that uses the Internet. This misstatement is akin to confusing a light bulb with the electric company. Your articles dealing with tech and Internet in general are very, very poorly informed Mo. You are eroding your credibility rapidly every time you spout off about the tech world. And that’s sad, because I think you’re well informed about the music world. Do some homework. Make a geek friend or two. Before nobody takes you seriously.

    Getting back to the heart of the matter, sounds to me like Facebook is doing the right thing. If someone might be using Facebook to infringe on copyright or other intellectual property, they are simply being prudent to want to have no part of it. And removal of one’s Facebook page is hardly the end of the world. While plenty of people use Facebook to market to a certain demographic, if Facebook is the sum total of your marketing strategy, your biz plan is fatally flawed anyway.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      @jazz cat ah, sir, it is you who are misinformed. Using a sample does not require permission in a demo. You can make copies of anything you like it’s for personal use. Same goes for covers. None of these uses are considered “infringement,” and even if someone thinks they are, I am not a copyright nazi. I recognize that the creative process requires SOME infringing to progress.

      Facebook may not be an ISP like AT&T (providing access to the net) but it absolutely is an ISP as the DMCA defines that term and therefore for the purposes of this discussion. The NYT and WSJ also use the term lousily to describe large portals on occasion.

      I’ve been asked to testify in Federal court on more than one occasion. Paid well for it too. So– felling pretty good about my credibility. But thanks for being concerned.

      • jazz cat says:

        Hi Mo

        Thanks for clarifying the DMCA def’n of OSP as ISP; I wasn’t aware of that.

        However, per Wikipedia (not a definitive source, but probably close enough for this discussion):

        So Facebook is simply exercising its right to adhere to DMCA by blocking claimed infringers. And, yes, they could un-block upon receiving a counternotice claiming non-infringement. But you can’t blame them for wanting to stay out of it entirely. Why invite a lawsuit when you can just tell the infringer to go somewhere else? Facebook is just one place on the Internet. There are lots of other ways for an artist to get their work onto the Net besides Facebook.

        I understand that sampling is not infringement but we will have to agree to disagree about whether infringment is a required part of the creative process. IMHO “required” is the operative term, and I don’t think its “required” or “creative” to copy someone else’s work bit-for-bit. Putting a different frame around the Mona Lisa does not make you another DaVinci. I do understand that it is possible to create a very different, interesting, creative derivative work, and that doing so is a matter of degree; for my ears at least, I don’t think “wow this sure is different and creative” when I hear rap and pop tunes that utilize easily-recognizable chunks of another artist’s work. My feelings are more along the lines of “Why can’t you respect yourself and another musician enough to write your OWN tune?”

        Despite your own experience as an expert witness, you may recall that the Federal courts sided with Rick James on this point when he got into that little tiff with MC Hammer.



  7. Marilyn Miller says:

    In this day and age, Copyright is the new Gold. It is important that artists – and the general public – understand this, as Corporate America knows it VERY well! Create your own stuff – or disguise it better!

    Facebook and You Tube are not the copyright police, nor should they be. If you’ve ever tried to find the copyright holder for an obscure piece, you know how difficult and time consuming it can be. I DO think it’s only fair that Facebook and You Tube share the name of the person who made the accusation, however, and the alleged basis for their claim.

  8. Moses, I have requested and have had many pages removed from Facebook, I am a trademark holder and I have infringement problems left and right. Everyone I have had removed has received my name and phone number from Facebook and the reason for their removal.

  9. Brindes says:

    I think you’re correct. Facebook police on pages are really screwed up.

    Its easier than ever to take some fan page down or just to get that fan page.

    It makes me think, they are always talking about how they are here just to provide the support and let the users create the content and have the ideas but.. i dont feel much this way when I know that they can suddenly take down any work i make for no apparent reason.

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