Noah Kravitz was a longtime blogger for Phonedog. He built up a group of 17,000 on his corporate Twitter handle (@Noah_Phonedog), which has grown to more than 22,000 since leaving the company. When he left Phonedog on good terms, he says the company told him that he could change his handle to a personal account, as long as he posted about the company, “from time to time,” according to BBC News.
Now Phonedog is suing Kravitz for $370,000 ($2.50 per follower over an eight-month period).
The story is an interesting for those of us in the Twitter world, because it’s the first case of it’s kind. If an employee of a company uses the company’s resources to solicit business on Twitter, do they own the rights to the username and it’s followers?
Both Kravitz and Phonedog seem to have a case.
Kravitz can argue that people followed him, not Phonedog, and that the followers are interested in what he has to say, not in what Phonedog wants to sell them. On the other hand, Phonedog has solicited the followers in the past, so it could be viewed as a company customer list, which would be another corporate asset, no different than it’s email database, etc.
It’s a case that will be fascinating to watch, especially with the number of reporters and other celebrities who are some of the most popular personalities in the Twittersphere. For instance, does ESPN, FoxNews, CNN, etc., own the rights to their reporters’ followers? And if an actress has millions of followers, and then leaves a hit TV show, does the show or network have a stake in those followers as well?
In an age where many employees are charged with blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook for their company, who in fact, does own these usernames and followers? There’s no doubt that corporate lawyers will also be paying attention, and adapting social media policies.
What do you think? How much is a Twitter follower really worth? Does an employee have a right to keep his followers when he leaves a company?
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