Updated on December 10, 2021
The list of criticisms against Facebook’s business practices has a new entry as of this week. Facebook has introduced “Fan Subscriptions,” a service meant to compete with Patreon. For a $5 a month fee, supporters can receive exclusive content and other stuff from creators. The service was announced last March, but is being rolled out to more users now.
Unfortunately, Fan Subscriptions carries with it two major flaws, according to its terms of service. The first is that Facebook can take up to a whopping 30% of subscription fees. (Apple and Google also charge a 30% fee for apps in the iOS App Store/Google Play.) That’s ludicrously large for creators; meanwhile, Patreon charges only 5%.
But even worse is the second part: even if creators stop using the service, Facebook claims a perpetual, royalty-free license to creators’ works; Zuckerberg’s company will be free to reuse said works indefinitely. It’s the second part that’s set off the online creative community, and for good reason.
My two cents (or 1.4 cents under Fan Subscriptions)
Facebook’s already a creator-unfriendly place. Facebook pages are basically useless for gaining any visibility or traction, since they’re now “pay to play” (one must pay to boost a post’s visibility, and only to a fraction of followers). Otherwise, the social network’s algorithms throttle the visibility of users’ posts. I’ve pretty much shuttered my own page because of such; that might explain the lack of receiving any emails about Fan Subscriptions.
A few have expressed concerns that despite zero reason for creators to use this service, it’ll catch on anyway in countries where Facebook heavily dominates Internet usage.
I’d strongly advise creators to stick with Patreon or similar independent services that don’t claim such draconian license and payout terms. There’s nothing about Facebook that offers enough benefits to creators to justify using Fan Subscriptions. If it’s just the need to stake out a home online, one should have a blog/website; that’s whether it’s self-hosted or through a service like WordPress.com, Medium, or Tumblr.
Here’s a few choice Twitter tweets by various comic creators about Facebook Fan Subscriptions.
There are SO MANY PLATFORMS out there right now for independents; you do NOT need this. And it’s not even *for* you, it’s for FB. Some bright-eyed young cartoonist is gonna take this bait on the strength of the (grossly inflated) FB views their work gets, and regret it forever.
— Iron Spike (@Iron_Spike) February 27, 2019
So this thing isn’t even released yet, and Cyanide & Happiness is already banned from it. We were invited to beta test, but a FB mod considered one of our comics too offensive and disabled it.
Creators should probably avoid this. Seems like a big risk.https://t.co/S5PASJPiPg
— Rob DenBleyker @ PAX East #10112 (@RobDenBleyker) February 27, 2019
‘And Facebook demands a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use” creators’ content and “This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.” This is just disgusting.
— G. is on tour (@GWillowWilson) February 26, 2019
Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.