Professor Hannibal Travis Discusses Facebook’s Upcoming IPO

Florida International University hosted a panel discussion for journalists covering Facebook’s upcoming initial public offering (IPO) and its implications. FIU experts from a wide array of fields, including business, law, engineering and communication, discussed what to expect in the coming months as the world’s largest social media site goes public. Amongst those FIU experts was FIU Law Professor Hannibal Travis.

“The Facebook IPO provides our students with a great opportunity to discuss issues of growing importance, such as patents over popular new ways of communicating, and whether the government has a role in preserving competition and transparency in markets for communication and information,” said Professor Travis.

Professor Travis, who focuses on intellectual property implications of new technologies and user-generated content, as well as antitrust law as applied to broadband and Wi-Fi Internet access markets, addressed Facebook’s intellectual property and individual privacy issues from a legal standpoint. “You provide Facebook with an irrevocable worldwide license to use the information but you do not perform a copyright assignment necessarily to Facebook. In some cases, it would be impossible for you to do so because the information does not belong to you. You did not take the photograph; maybe you got it from somewhere else or you are re-posting material from elsewhere, which we call user-generated/user-submitted content. Therefore, third parties may have a copyright interest in the material. Also the license that Facebook receives could potentially be challenged.”

Before the anticipated IPO, Facebook is cooperating with the federal government and is also seeking protection. This raises flags for privacy analysts. “It will be interesting to see how litigation proceeds,” said Travis.

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