New Legal Challenge - Who Owns Followers on Twitter?

11 January 2012 Publication
Authors: Peter Vogel

E-Commerce Times

Twitter assumes no obligation to keep any information secret. If you look at Twitter’s Terms of Service, you will clearly see that the word “secret” is nowhere to be found. Since Twitter has a license to all content posted for all Twitter accounts, a claim to ownership of followers by anyone — employer, employee or any account holder — may be a long shot.

On Jan. 1, I found that these Twitter names had hordes of followers: @ladygaga had 17,554,645, @Starbucks had 1,927,255, and @noahkravitz had 24,273. If you have a Twitter account, you can easily see all of who the followers are.

Having Twitter followers doesn’t mean you get to keep them, though. Followers can unfollow on their own. Or, an employer  might try to claim the followers belong to it. In a lawsuit filed by Kravitz’s former employer PhoneDog, a novel legal question is raised: Who really owns followers on Twitter? Does this suit represent the beginning of legal challenges regarding the ownership of social-media-related rights to content, connections and messages?

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