Most tweeting attorneys know that what you write on your personal Twitter account is yours.
In fact, Twitter itself weighed in and clarified its terms of service to say that an account's tweets are owned by the author.
But the lines get a bit sketchy when you consider a company's Twitter account. Corporations, small businesses, and anyone who wants to gain a following is now getting into the social media game.
Things can get a bit tricky when an employee who Tweets for the company suddenly quits. Who owns that?
That's exactly what's at issue in the case of PhoneDog's former reviewer and video blogger, Noah Kravitz. He used the handle, @PhoneDog_Noah until he quit the company. The company asked for the account back, but Kravitz refused and changed his account name to @noahkravitz.
Now, PhoneDog is suing him for misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with economic advantage and conversion.
Will they succeed? Savvy attorneys may question the validity of some of their claims. After all, Twitter posts are by their nature public. Whether or not they are "trade secrets" may be a borderline case.
But PhoneDog's case illustrates an important point. Twitter ownership seems to be a tenuous thing, especially when an employee is the one blasting the messages. In one case across the pond, Laura Kuenssberg who was BBC's chief political correspondent quit and went over to rival ITV. At BBC, her Twitter account was named @BBCLauraK. After she switched jobs, she changed the account name to @ITVLauraK. She had amassed 60,000 followers over the years while working for the BBC. Did BBC deserve a slice of her Twitter account?
It seems that it may be best for attorneys to advise companies about the pitfalls of a company's Twitter account. And about how it may be important to include a clause or two about what happens to an account's ownership should the employee leave the company further down the road.
- Lawyers, Guns, and Twitter - Who Owns Your Twitter Account (Search Engine Journal)
- FTC Settles Twitter Privacy Charges (FindLaw's Technologist)