Does Your Business Own Its Social Media Accounts?

When an employee creates and maintains a social media account on behalf of his/her employer, what happens to the account(s) when the employee is terminated or resigns?

The world is closely watching a federal case in the Northern District of California where a mobile news and reviews resource company, Phonedog, is suing a former employee Noah Kravitz (or independent contractor, depending on what news report you read) over who owns a Twitter account that was started in association with PhoneDog, and is now being used by Kravitz as his own Twitter account. The issues drawing so much attention include who owns a social media account – the employee who posts on it, or the employer on whose behalf the employee was posting. The other issue is what value, if any, can be placed on Twitter followers (or, by analogy Facebook likes), when social media attracts people who are portable and not “owned” by the social media account.

The crux of the lawsuit is that Kravitz was paid as a product reviewer and video blogger for PhoneDog from April 2006 through October 2010, and that this position included posting tweets on a Twitter account called @PhoneDog_Noah. After Kravitz left PhoneDog, he changed the name of the account to @noahkravitz, and kept its followers instead of relinquishing the account and its followers over to PhoneDog as was requested of him.

Michelle Sherman, Esq.  at JDSupra.com gives the following advice to employers:

In general, companies should to the greatest extent possible register social media accounts in their own names or through a senior marketing person and/or social media manager if the account needs to be in the name of a person. Further, on social media accounts such as Facebook pages, where you can have more than one administrator, companies should take advantage of this option and have several administrators. Having several administrators, and asserting control over the account, is another way to demonstrate “ownership” of the account, and also avoid some of the problems experienced by PhoneDog.

Read the full article by Michelle Sherman, Esq.

If you are an employer with questions about issues regarding your employees, past and present, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent, licensed and insured attorneys who specifically represent employers. Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Do You Have Permission to “Pin” That?

Pinterest, a social photo sharing website, launched in 2010, allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections.  This site, especially popular with women, has grown to 11.1 million users as of last month.

According to Georgia lawyer Kirsten Kowalski, Pinterest’s terms of use agreement states that users are responsible for member content they make available, and either accordingly own the content or have consent from the items’ owners.

“I immediately thought of the ridiculously gorgeous images I had recently pinned from an outside website and, while I gave the other photographer credit right in my pin … I most certainly could not think of any way that I either owned those photos or had license, consent or release from the photographers who owned them,” Kowalski wrote.

Also, Business Insider reports, Pinterest’s terms of service holds users responsible for legal fees should litigation arise. Kowalski notes that Pinterest reserves the right to prosecute users for copyright violations.

Read the entire story from the ABA Journal News.

If you have been accused of  violating copyright laws, or someone is using your intellectual property without permission, consulting with an attorney who specifically handles intellectual property matters can make all the difference!  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent attorneys who regularly practice in this area of law.  Call 603-229-0002 for a referral or submit the online referral request form.