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Who owns a company employee's Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook account? It may seem like an easy question. After all, an individual's name is attached to his or her social media account.
It's thought of as "Jane Doe's Twitter," or "Jane Doe's LinkedIn Page." Unless it has the company's own name on it, the case of ownership seems simple. But maybe it's really not.
And it's something corporate attorneys might need to address.
Social media is taking over many traditional forms of advertising and customer engagement. For businesses, it's becoming increasingly more important to maintain a presence on these platforms.
Tweeting, making connections on LinkedIn, and updating Facebook is now often a part of an employee's duties. Sometimes it's even a worker's main job function.
Maybe that's why there is an ever-increasing amount of litigation on the subject. California company PhoneDog sued an ex-employee, Noah Kravitz. The company alleged that it had a stake in Kravitz's Twitter account and its 17,000 followers.
In a Pennsylvania case, the facts are similar. Edcomm and its former employee Linda Eagle sued each other over her LinkedIn profile.
It's a full-blown social media custody battle. Courts will have to address and dissect the relevant legal issues. Some of the companies' claims are similar: Both allege a violation of trade secrets, though over different aspects of the account.
PhoneDog claims Kravitz used confidential company information to access the account. Edcomm alleged Eagle's "connections" were trade secrets. A judge has disagreed with this part of Edcomm's claim, though the rest of the case is still pending.
It seems that general counsels everywhere likely need to start considering what legal impacts social media networks may have. Who owns a Twitter account may be something that needs to be addressed in an employee's contract.