Can your employer own your Twitter account?

Krystal Peak · December 26, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/22f6

Phonedog.com sues blogger for the Twitter following he accumulated while writing for the review site

 

An upcoming court case may make some tweeters uneasy with concerns that their company could own their Twitter account.

An Oakland tech writer that once worked for the mobile review site PhoneDog.com is in a legal battle over how much the Twitter account he started, @PhoneDog_Noah, is worth and if his employer has rights to the more than 17,000 followers he accumulated during his the time he spent with the company.

In October of last year, Noah Kravitz left his gig at Phonedog.com and agreed to occasionally post some Phonedog.com-related content in exchange for keeping the Twitter account, according to The New York Times, but months later the company sued Kravitz seeking damages equalling $340,000 (or $2.50 per follower per month.) Yikes!

This lawsuit has many bloggers paying attention to the case to see what might be in store for their curated Twitter followings.

Phonedog.com states that its site gets approximately 2.5 million unique visitors per month and the company told The New York TImes that "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.”

Mr. Kravitz claims that the lawsuit was retaliation for his claim to 15% of the site’s gross advertising revenue because of his position as a vested partner, plus owed back-pay.

Many bloggers open their own Twitter accounts that are, in some respect, connected to the publications that they write for, but many publishing groups have failed to establish and clarify who would maintain the Twitter accounts and followers when the publication relationship with the writer is over.

Many writers spend a great deal of time and effort creating their own brand on social sites such as  Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook, which add value to their insight and would be non-too-pleased to hear that all that work would stay at the company when they move on.

While it is still unclear what the Phonedog_Noah account was intended to be (a place for the writer to curate a following or a place for Phonedog.com to build a readership) many publications choose to create more specific handles like the Guardian UK has done with its Twitter accounts -- creating @guardianbooks, @guardiannews, @guardiantech and several others to build its topic specific followers, while its reporters maintain their own accounts to build author specific readers.

Currently, Kravitz has renamed his handle @NoahKravitz and has grown his fellowship to more than 22,000. SInce Kravitz has continued to grow his followers since leaving Phonedog.com, he may have some strong evidence that his Twitter entourage is not dependant upon his previous employer.

All of us that have spent time building our online brand will be waiting to see just how Kravitz fairs in this battle with his previous employer.

Phonedog Media was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

 

 

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