Murray Gottheil is a Senior Partner in Pallett Valo LLP's Business Law Practice and Family Business Law Group.
Hey You Twit – the Twitter account is mine!
Employers and employees are clashing about ownership of social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The lawsuits have started in the U.S. and will be here soon.
Imagine, for example, that your employee is using a LinkedIn account to market your business and has a list of contacts including some contacts that he or she brought to the business and some contacts that were developed while employed by you. The employee leaves to a competitor, changes the references to your company on the LinkedIn profile to the competitor’s name and starts marketing the competitor’s products or services to the contact list.
Now, we have a fight as to who owns the account.
You think that you own it all – the username and password, the content and postings containing text, pictures and links, and the social connections associated with the account— such as “contacts” for LinkedIn, “followers” for Twitter or “friends” for Facebook. The employee thinks that he or she owns it because it is linked to his or her personal identity.
There are things that you should do to protect your interests, such as developing a social media policy and addressing the issues in your employee manuals and employment agreements, not to mention maintaining actual control over passwords.
I would like to thank Helen Ferrigan, Director of Knowledge Management for Pallett Valo LLP, for her assistance in drafting this edition.