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It was bound to happen sooner or later. A lawsuit over who owns the Twitter account of an employee (technically, a former employee) who used the account in part to tweet on behalf of the employee. Sidebar: There was contract.

In the absence of case law, a case like this is far from open-shut. In fact, it could get dirty. But I suspect that PhoneDog Media saw an opportunity to bully for money.

Ask any lawyer and he’ll tell you that a business should “aggressively” protect its trademark and other business interests. Otherwise, the company could lose them. It’s a standard line, and its one that is often interpreted to encourage business owners to pursue litigation for even the most extraordinary and awkwardly absurd situations.

I’m not saying this situation is “extraordinary and awkwardly absurd,” but if you read the company’s response to The New York Times, it smacks of legal double-talk.

“The costs and resources invested by PhoneDog Media into growing its followers, fans and general brand awareness through social media are substantial and are considered property of PhoneDog Media L.L.C. We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”

When employers and employees begin to make handshake agreements regarding the latter’s social media accounts and using them on behalf of company business, it’s an area of law is very murky. It is in both party’s interest to get a contract. It could save a lot of headache in the long run and spell out the particulars that could make a lawsuit unnecessary and avoidable.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be legal advice. Seek an attorney before making decisions about your social media accounts.

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