Facebook kicks Audio off Platform, bigger questions loom

Last night, Facebook completely kicked the Audio application off the Facebook Platform, a first in Platform history for an application of this size. The reasons cited were IP violations. Audio was an application that let Facebook users upload MP3 files, share them with friends, and listen to them on the site. One of the fastest growing apps after launch, Audio had about 750,000 users before Facebook pulled out the rug.

The Audio case is a first in what is sure to be a developing IP law landscape as Facebook looks to define its legal role and responsibilities with respect to application developers and copyright holders. Is Facebook liable for copyright violations that occur within third party Platform applications?

I’m not an expert in IP law (that’s why I pay them God awful sums) but I am sure that Facebook does not want to be in the middle every time an application developer is served a complaint. What a nightmare.

At the same time, application developers need some assurance that their apps are going to be deleted just because a high powered lawyer sent a letter to Facebook. While this case is certainly one that did not develop overnight (Facebook had reportedly repeatedly asked the developer of Audio to modify his application before it was removed), Facebook has set the precedent with Audio that it will delete applications that it feels are in violations of copyright law and its terms of service.

As the Platform emerges, new scenarios and questions around user-generated content, application developer liability, and platform provider liability will emerge. Ultimately, however, I predict Facebook will have to go to court to defend its position as merely an application gateway and thus not a liable party for third-party developer behavior. I hope the court finds in their favor, else I doubt the Platform concept can survive.

[tags]facebook, platform, audio, ip, law, copyright, infringement, applications[/tags]