Who owns your followers?

Here’s an interesting case that should get more attention than it is currently getting:

An Internet company is suing a former employee, saying he left the firm and took his 17,000 Twitter followers with him.

PhoneDog LLC says Noah Kravitz owes them $340,000 because when Kravitz left to do freelance work, he changed his Twitter name from PhoneDog_Noah to noahkravitz, and kept his followers. He eventually went to work for a competitor.

I suspect the law here is fairly clear. If the Twitter account was created in order for Kravitz to do his job with the company and was in no way intended to be a personal account (it uses the company name, after all), then the followers really belong to the company, not to Kravitz. They should be able to change the account’s name to the next person to hold Kravitz’ job and continue using it.

I suspect there is more complexity here than the article indicates, but that is why this case is so interesting. As social media becomes more and more prevalent and used by more and more companies these sorts of issues are going to come up. Social media law is going to become a hot field soon. And companies need to pay much, much more attention to their social media policies than they currently do.