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Are followers intellectual property?

by Shawn Paul Wood
Jan
04
2012

Twitter has been a persnickety thing since its inception in 2006.

Early adopters could have never fathomed how the insignificant "@" symbol would become emblematic of pop folklore. But it has and so, everyone in the media that wants to be is quantified by followers.

Content aside. Insight be damned. How many sheep follow the shepherd matters most. (And by sheep, I mean, can we please put an end to a Kardashian determining fashion trends via this thing?) 

And now, we have a lawsuit that may give us an answer. As noted in the New York Times article

How much is a tweet worth? And how much does a follower cost? 

Apparently, we have a writer in Oakland, Calif. named... found @NoahKravitz, nee @Phonedog_Noah. This man worked for Phonedog.com for about four years. Upon his departure, Noah had earned the devotion of more than 17,000 followers. That's all swell until Noah began "promoting the competitors' content to the Twitter account [Phonedog.com] clearly had and have rights to," according to a statement from the provider.   

Fast forward to eight months ago to now, and Phonedog.com is suing Kravitz claiming his followers are their database. And to make nice, Kravitz should drop about $340,000, or $2.50 per follower per month. That's right, social media fans. You are all about to have a price if this lawsuit is pushed through. But should you? And what should that price be? 

“This will establish precedent in the online world, as it relates to ownership of social media accounts,” said Henry J. Cittone, a lawyer in New York who litigates intellectual property disputes. “We’ve actually been waiting to see such a case as many of our clients are concerned about the ownership of social media accounts vis-á-vis their branding.”

Social media policies are becoming a must with companies of all sizes, shapes and industries these days. Separation of church and cyberstate, more or less, but it's necessary. What is the property of the company and what can be attributed to your own prather online? Sure, you can type in your profile, "RTs and endorsements are my own" but that's a poor man's copyright, isn't it? Well, isn't it? What do you think? Whatever you think, I would tweet your social media manager pronto about this case and be sure you're protected. 

 

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