Building a Company On Top of a Platform? Watch the Copyright and Read the Fine Print

There are a number of stories about tech startups building products and services around a platform like Twitter only to have the floor drop out under them when the platform decides to change access to its APIs.

Less talked about are content creators and companies that utilize, grow and depend on such platforms as an integral part of their business.

Enter The Cool Hunter, which grew its Facebook presence to 788,000 fans, relied on content posted there to engage audiences and drive people back to its site, and did all this successfully until… the floor dropped out under them.

Facebook deleted the fan page for what it alleges were repeated copyright violations.

In a blog post, Cool Hunter founder Bill Tikos claims innocence and expresses the overwhelming frustration he’s had trying to get hard answers to the basic question he’s trying to ask: What have we done wrong?

Eight weeks ago, our Facebook (FB) page ( with all of its content and our 788,000 fans – resources we have created and nurtured meticulously over the past five years - was gone.

Not blocked or invisible, but completely gone. Disabled. “Page does not exist.” No explanation, flimsy warnings, no instructions on what to do next. None of our numerous attempts to rectify the situation and resurrect the page have worked.

And because we suspect there are other businesses in the same bind, we are writing this to seek help and encourage open conversation. This is not a minor problem. This is a huge issue and potentially fatal to businesses. We feel that FB must change its one-sided, secret policies and deal with us, and others like us, openly and fairly.

Tikos claims that there were only two copyright infringing instances, writing, “But even if FB disagrees with the images we posted, are two images enough to kill our account with no chance of recourse?”

The Next Web reached out to Facebook for clarification and was told that there were “repeat” infringements and that the social network reviewed the material. That is, it wasn’t an automated process. Furthermore, Facebook claims to have given The Cool Hunter multiple warnings.

While we can’t arbitrate a he said, she said case, this is a broad warning to brands operating on platforms to interact with their audiences.

Facebook does have a granular copyright process where holders can file notices that their content or trademarks have been infringed. It works like the takedowns on YouTube. Yes, there are great flaws in that process. Namely, the false copyright claims by major copyright holders (takedowns of NASA’s public domain Curiosity footage comes to mind) and the long process a poster goes through to prove his or her content is legitimate.

Still, having one content object removed is better than having the entire history of your interaction on a platform disappeared.

As The Next Web points out, Facebook is clear about its copyright policies in both its terms and conditions, and in its Community Standards.

Painful as it is, here’s a reminder to read the fine print. — Michael

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