Companies sue employees over LinkedIn, Twitter accounts

Suits raise the issue of ownership of social media profiles for company purposes

The scenarios may be quite different, but claims in two lawsuits have now survived the motion-to-dismiss phase and are grabbing employers’ attention as they raise the issue of ownership of social media accounts used for company purposes.  

Ninety percent of chief marketing officers now participate in three or more social media activities, a 2011 survey by Bazaarvoice, a software company, and the CMO Club found. And as more and more businesses rely on social media for marketing and managing their public personae, experts say similar lawsuits will become more common.

Legal Eagle
In the LinkedIn case, Eagle countersued, and in response Edcomm countersued, and on Dec. 22, 2011, the court allowed some of Edcomm’s counterclaims to survive a motion to dismiss.

The court in Eagle v. Morgan rejected the defendant’s counterclaim that Eagle had, under Pennsylvania law, misappropriated a trade secret by using her LinkedIn account and an Edcomm cell phone number because they don’t qualify as trade secrets (See “Higher Hurdles”).

“What I found noteworthy about the amended complaint was that [PhoneDog] began to realize that they would have problems showing they have an ownership of Twitter followers,” Sherman says. “It could be that the case doesn’t end up being per se about who owns Twitter followers.”

Although the case raises good questions, Sherman says PhoneDog didn’t go into it with very good facts for itself—for example, the complaint makes clear that PhoneDog let Kravitz set up the account and create its username and password, which is why the company was so dependent on Kravitz giving back control of the account.

Associate Editor

Melissa Maleske

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