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Facebook takes on Patreon, but its terms enrage artists

Facebook angry reaction emoji

Yesterday, Facebook began opening up its Fan Subscriptions service to more creators, and its potential fees and licensing rules have caused a storm within the digital art community. 

Announced back in March 2018 and touted as Facebook's answer to Patreon, Fan Subscriptions was originally a limited-availability service that allowed creators to give fans exclusive access to content for a monthly subscription fee of $4.99.

Earlier this week, Facebook started to invite more creators to Fan Subscriptions, which has lead to a major pushback from disgruntled artists. As it stands, page owners are still able to keep all of the subscription fees they earn. But according to its terms of service, Facebook could start to take a cut of up to 30 per cent.

Another bone of contention concerns the licensing surrounding creator content – Facebook asks that artists hand over a non-exclusive, sub-licensable and transferable license to their work that will continue even if they stop using the service.

Facebook fan subscriptions

The Facebook Fan Subscriptions page encourages artists to join now (although you still have to be invited)

Facebook's ownership over uploaded user content is nothing new, but the idea of a royalty-free license that would allow the social media site to use images however it wants is causing concern amongst artists. There are ways out of the license though: delete your content or account.

The announcement has been met with an angry reaction from artists. Matt Saincome, founder of satirical news site The Hard Times, and Rob DenBleyker, the creator behind popular webcomic Cyanide & Happiness, took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

The 30 per cent cut isn't set in stone just yet, but it's not as out-of-kilter with the rest of the market as you might think – live streaming video platform Twitch takes a 50 per cent cut, for example. Patreon, however, only takes 5 per cent of its users' pledges.

If Facebook does decide to implement the higher cut, creators will be given 30 days notice. The full list of terms and conditions is currently only available to those that have been invited to Fan Subscriptions, however a policy document is doing the rounds that details how Facebook could offer “discounted or free trials for fans from time to time in our discretion". While these discounts might benefit fans, it would ultimately be the creator who would end up paying.

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