Say you work for a company and open a Twitter account, combining your name with the company’s, and reach out to followers on behalf of that company. Are the myriad followers you rack up tied to you as a personal entity, or to the company?
When Noah Kravitz, a writer for cell phone news and reviews site PhoneDog.com, quit the company in October 2010, he not only changed his Twitter account from @Phonedog_Noah to @NoahKravitz, but he kept the 17,000 followers tied to his account. According to Kravitz, PhoneDog at first allowed him to keep the account, with the changed name, in exchange for tweeting about the company occasionally. Then eight months later, in July, PhoneDog sued Kravitz, claiming his massive Twitter follower list was a customer list. The company is seeking damages of $2.50 a month per each Twitter follower for eight months: a total of $340,000. The lawsuit, filed in Northern California, has sparked a larger debate about who owns a Twitter account.
Do you think an employee can claim ownership to Twitter followers they’ve accumulated as part of their job? If they belong to the company, how much are they worth?
Dashiell Bennett, writer for The Atlantic and author of “Lawsuit Asks ‘Who Owns a Twitter Follower?’”
Noah Kravitz, Editor at Large with TechnoBuffalo.com and former writer for
Michael Overing, practicing attorney, and an adjunct professor at USC's Annenberg School of Communication