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Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Report Developments in protecting businesses against unfair competition

PhoneDog v. Kravitz Settlement Points to Need for Agreements on Ownership of Social Media Accounts

Last December, PhoneDog, a mobile phone website, sued Noah Kravitz, after he resigned from the company, alleging that he improperly took control of his Twitter account and approximately 17,000 Twitter followers when he left. While at PhoneDog, Kravitz’s Twitter account was @PhoneDog_Noah. After he left, Kravitz changed the account to @noahkravitz but kept his followers. PhoneDog did not have a written policy regarding ownership of the Twitter account. PhoneDog sued Kravitz after he left, seeking damages of $2.50 per follower per month.  After Kravitz’s motion to dismiss was denied, the case recently settled under terms that allow Kravitz to maintain his Twitter account and followers, however other settlement terms were not disclosed so the question of how much a Twitter follower is worth remains unanswered.

This dispute might have been avoided if PhoneDog had written policies and agreements in place consistent with privacy and social media protection laws regarding who owns social media networking accounts when they are used on behalf of the company and in furtherance of its business as well as guidelines on communicating professionally with clients, prospects, vendors, suppliers and the like over social networking sites.  In this case, PhoneDog did not have a written policy and this may have led to the protracted legal battle. Working things out ahead of time can provide a better understanding for all parties down the road.