Monday, October 04, 2010

Who Owns A Former Employee's Twitter @ccount?

Legal Blog Watch wonders about the ownership of departed CNN anchor Rick Sanchez' Twitter account.

For what it's worth, there's been no activity on @ricksanchezcnn since Mr. Sanchez was unceremoniously shown the door over the weekend.

As a result, in this case, my bet's with CNN.

It may well depend, ultimately, on who actually set up the account and the actual understanding of the parties at the time.

My presumption is that if an employer sets up a social media account for its own commercial purposes, incorporating the name of an employee into the account with the employee's permission, the employer will be the lawful owner of the account, at least as far as the social media site's terms of service will be concerned.

In some cases, however, it may be clear or implied from the intentions of the parties that the employer has acted solely as an agent of the employee in opening a subsequently disputed user account. In these cases, the employee is probably the owner - but good luck convincing the site's proprietors of that.

Obviously, as high-traffic Twitter accounts are of increasingly significant value, this is a matter best dealt with, in advance, by way of employment agreement. Failing such agreement, however, it is the sites' terms of service that may well determine these sticky questions.

In the meanwhile, it is pretty clear that whoever owns it, neither Mr. Sanchez nor CNN will be at liberty to continue this account without a name change.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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