For the Layman: Who owns a Twitter Account?

Note: This blog has always been Twitter Account Ownershipabout informing the non-lawyer about legal issues ranging from very basic (see yesterday’s post) to more complex.  Sometimes, though, I find myself wondering about things in a more than merely practical way.  So in the future, I will be writing articles with one of two audiences in mind: the layman or the lawyer.  This one starts off that series by introducing a topic for the layman, albeit a corporate layman.

A while back, I gave some commentary to a New York Times journalist regarding the PhoneDog case.  That case dealt with an employee who tweeted for a company as part of his job duties.  The employee built up about 17,000 followers, and when he left, he changed the account handle to a personal handle.  PhoneDog subsequently sued for misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things, and requested about a quarter of a million dollars in damages.  The complaint had some odd issues to jump over, but one thing is made clear by this case, as a recent article by Foley & Lardner attorney Tamar N. Dolcourt points out:

The PhoneDog case illustrates the need for clear corporate social media policies. If your company has a Twitter account that one employee maintains, your policies should account for what will happen to that account should the employee leave. Clearly stated policies which account for the possibility of account turnover if needed will help protect the social media assets your company has developed.