Space Ramblings

Obama’s MySpace Grab

Joe Anthony, a Los Angeles paralegal, set up an unofficial MySpace Latest News about MySpace page for Senator Barack Obama at myspace.com/barackobama, after he heard his speech at the Democratic convention in 2004, and then invested time and energy into its development.

The Obama campaign got in touch with Anthony once his site — which was rapidly attracting tens of thousands of MySpace “friends” — appeared on its radar. For a while, a synergy apparently existed between the two.

Then the Obama campaign asked to take over the page, and the relationship quickly turned ugly. Anthony requested financial reimbursement for the time he had put into building the site, but the campaign reportedly refused to pay up. It then approached MySpace to obtain control of the site.

As Anthony says in his own blog posting on the matter: “I was blocked from the profile, and the content was altered to redirect traffic to the new, ‘official’ profile. MySpace has, in fact, granted access to the profile without my permission.”

Now while similar issues have occurred before with MySpace turning over profiles to companies– in this case Barack Obama is an individual. Arguably Obama has a right to his MySpace page and to his profile. Anthony certainly contributed to a lot of work it would seem to the Obama campaign and unpaid work at that– however it was obviously unsolicited work. Anthony has no real basis for setting up a profile for Obama, demanding to be paid for unsolicited work and the getting on his high horse about having it turned over to the Obama campaign.

However, once Obama’s friends network exploded to over 160,000 people, the campaign became weary of letting an outsider control the candidate’s image on the popular social networking website. The Obama campaign wanted more control over the profile, but negotiations broke down when they rejected Anthony’s request for $39,000 plus future fees.

Now 39,000 dollars might technically cover the work Anthony has done. Whoever the Obama campaign will pay to handle this– assuming they use a professional– will probably pay more than that. And thirty nine grand is penny ante to the Obama campaign which is playing with the tens and soon hundreds of millions of dollars.

That said this kind of behavior smacks of hijacking and squatting sites in the hopes of selling them back again– a practice not unknown on MySpace either.

Anthony then changed the password to the profile. The Obama campaign responded by complaining to MySpace executives over the issue. Obama got control of the profile, but had to start his friend network from scratch since MySpace executives decided to let Anthony keep the network of 160,000 Obama supporters. As of Thursday morning Barack Obama has slightly over 21,000 friends.

Which makes this whole thing more senseless than usual. If Anthony no longer supports Obama, why in the world does he need the 160,000 Obama friends and what can he do with them really. The absurdity of the whole thing is that the entire dispute revolves over a social networking profile for an individual managed by another individual, when the original individual decided he wanted control of it, at this point he got control of it but his friends went elsewhere. As Don King wouldn’t say, Only on MySpace.

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