The question that the courts are being asked to answer, in a suit brought by an employer against a former employee, is;

Does an employee who leaves a job that involves working with social media have the right to take his or her Twitter account and followers along?

 According to Ron Barnett, a writer for USA TODAY,

That’s the question at the heart of a case unfolding in U.S. District Court in Northern California. It pits Noah Kravitz, who worked as an editor and video blogger, against his former employer, PhoneDog, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based company that offers reviews, news and information about phones and related technology.

By the time Kravitz left PhoneDog in October 2010, he had amassed nearly 17,000 followers. PhoneDog says in the lawsuit those followers should be treated like a customer list, and therefore are its property. The company is asking that Kravitz pay $2.50 per follower per month for eight months, or a total of $340,000. In his answer filed last week, Kravitz argues that PhoneDog is overstating the account’s value and that Twitter is the legal owner of the account.

Eric Menhart, a Washington attorney specializing in cyberlaw says that, “unless there’s a written agreement, there’s no clear line that answers this question.”

This lawsuit has the potential to touch the lives of anyone who uses social media, especially if they use it not only to promote a a particular employer’s brand-name but to create valuable name recognition for themselves.

Rachael Horwitz of Twitter’s media relations office stated that “Twitter does not comment on individual users for privacy reasons.”

Note: It is generally accepted in employment practices that for any work performed for an employer that creates value for said employer while said employee is under an employment contract… that value is effectively owned by the employer.  


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