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Call Letters at Risk on Facebook

WASHINGTON: TV stations with Facebook sites may want to nab their own call letters, David Silverman suggests. Silverman is an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

“As you may have heard, Facebook is going to allow users to register names in their Facebook URL, replacing the former random ID numbers,” Silverman wrote at the firm’s broadcast law blog. “This new policy creates the danger that Facebook users may try to register as their user name words or phrases that could infringe on a company name, trademarked slogan, or even a broadcast station's call signs.”

The policy became effective Saturday, but the option to establish a user-name URL remains active. Silverman notes that user names must contain at least five alphanumeric characters and no punctuation other than a period. There’s also an option to reclaim a user name if it violates a registered trademark.

“Broadcasters and other media companies should take steps now to avoid having someone else registering their intellectual property as a Facebook URL,” Silverman said. “Certainly, if someone is going to exploit your brand on Facebook, it should be you. Act now to avoid more trouble later.”

The only stumbling block for stations is if they are late to join the Facebook ecosystem. For the moment, custom URLs are only available for personal profiles and for company pages with more than 1,000 fans. (There’s a subtle difference on Facebook between profiles, which people “friend,” and pages, which are “fanned.”)

Reportedly, the limitation on custom URLs for pages with less than 1,000 fans will be lifted on June 28, at which time another “land rush” can be expected.

For stations that find their brand is being infringed upon, Facebook has a dispute process that can be started via the “Notice of Intellectual Property Infringement (Non-Copyright Claim)” page.