Who 'Owns' A Twitter Account: Employer Or Employee?

from the there's-going-to-be-a-legal-fight dept

Venkat Balasubramani, inspired by Marshall Kirkpatrick, recently explored the legal issue over who "owns" your Twitter account: you or your employer. Most people signed up for their own Twitter account, but many have used them in connection to their jobs, and the issue that kicked off Venkat's discussion was the recent firing of CNN's Rick Sanchez, who had a large Twitter following, which he regularly tapped into as a part of his job at CNN. The summary: um... it's not clear. If CNN wanted to, it could try to claim some right to the account, suggesting the followers were in large part due to CNN -- but that seems like a stretch. To date, most companies have pretty much assumed that the individual "owns" the account. I can't recall any examples of someone being forced to hand over their "personal" Twitter account upon leaving a job. However, the fact that it's such a gray area suggest that we'll eventually see a lawsuit over this in some form or another. It seems likely that things like this are going to start appearing in employment contracts as well (who owns what...), but for now it's simply an interesting legal hypothetical...

Filed Under: accounts, ownership

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  1. icon
    fogbugzd (profile), 27 Oct 2010 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re: Reasonable solution

    >>A murky area can appear when people use personal accounts to post company tweets, simple solution is: don't.

    I think that is good advice for most people, but it doesn't work well for people like reporters especially if they are nationally known. In that case the person and the company message are blurred. When a company hires a reporter that reporter's credibility and reputation is a very important part of what they are hiring. The reporter probably needs to tweet under their own name as part of the credibility package. Hiding behind a program name isn't as effective as standing under their own name. The flip side of this for the reporter is that they can blow their credibility and entire career with their tweets.

    In the Sanchez situation I think the account in question included both Shanchez's name and the name of the program, which probably makes it more of a company account in my mind. If Sanchez moves on to another network, will he have the same program name? I would imagine that CNN has the program name trademarked. On the other hand, it was probably Sanchez that people were following, so I would think that the account itself has relatively little value to CNN except for a post or two encouraging people to watch Sanchez's replacement. I think in the case of a mixed name account it should just have a "goodbye" post and then be canceled.

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