Almost everyone is involved in or on social media sites nowadays. People have Facebook accounts to stay connected with friends and family. Business people have LinkedIn accounts to connect with work colleagues. Twitter accounts allow people to post updates of 140 characters or less. Along with these personal accounts, some employers have a business Facebook page, LinkedIn page, or Twitter account. So, of course, a new legal battle has erupted over who actually “owns” these accounts.
In PhoneDog v. Kravitz, an employer and former employee battled over a company sponsored Twitter account. The misappropriation of a LinkedIn account is the subject of a U.S. District Court case in Pennsylvania between Edcomm and former CEO Dr. Linda Eagle. After Dr. Eagle’s termination from Edcomm, the company accessed Dr. Eagle’s account with her password, changed the password and changed the account profile to list the interim CEO of Edcomm. Dr. Eagle ultimately regained access of her account, but brought a lawsuit against Edcomm for violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Lanham Act, as well as, numerous state claims. The federal claims were dismissed under summary judgment. The Court has set a trial date on the state claims. These cases differ, the Kravitz case involved a company-sponsored account and Dr. Eagle’s LinkedIn account was not a company account.
The most important protection for businesses is to have a social media policy in place. The social media policy should:
1) Address what an employee can or can’t say about the company on a personal social media account.
2) Identify the business as the “owner” of any company social media accounts, and outline even though an employee has access to the company account for purposes of promoting the company, it doesn’t mean the account is the employee’s account.
3) Identify what happens to company social media accounts, when an employee leaves employment with the company.