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Tech Site Sues Ex-Employee, Claiming Rights To His Twitter Account

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the depends-what-the-meaning-of-his-is dept.

Businesses 267

nonprofiteer writes "Noah Kravitz worked as a mobile phone reviewer for a tech website called Phonedog for four and a half years. While there, he started a Twitter account (of his own volition) with the handle @PhoneDog_Noah to tweet his stories and videos for the site as well as personal stuff about sports, food, music, etc. When he left Phonedog, he had approximately 17,000 followers and changed his Twitter handle to @noahkravitz. This summer, Phonedog started barking that it wanted the Twitter account back, and sued Kravitz, valuing the account at $340,000 (!), or $2.50 per follower per month. Kravitz claims the Twitter account was his own property. A California judge ruled that the case can proceed and theoretically go to trial. Meanwhile, Kravitz continues to tweet."

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It was part of his job (4, Interesting)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053176)

He created the Twitter account as part of his job, so it does belong the company. Valuing those followers at $2.50 really isn't much either, and I can easily see that such group of targeted followers is worth that (I work in advertising too).

This seems like a really straight-forward case. The Twitter account belongs to Phonedog.

Re:It was part of his job (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053206)

It doesn't sound like the company asked him to do it.

Sounds more like he setup a personal account and was just giving his own articles some free PR.

Putting PhoneDog in the username is pretty stupid though and will definitely hurt his case.

Re:It was part of his job (5, Insightful)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053330)

It doesn't matter if he was specifically asked to do so. He used the company's resources and time to make it, used company's name as part of his handle and it definitely was something directly linked to Phonedog. If you do something at your work time, it usually does belong to the company. It's so with your personal projects done at work time too. Hell, in some places your personal projects done outside your work time belong to your employer too.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053516)

It really depends what is in his contract. Somehow I'd doubt they would have a copyright ownership clause in his employment. They could though. It is not the company's automatically because he worked for them and did this to help himself at his job, but not exclusively. As the summary says, it includes personal tweets as well.

There are parallels to someone making some new tech that can be placed in a ring, and then they put it in their wedding ring. Then the company, previously uninvolved, turns around and asks them for their wedding rings. I'm not sure any court, even in Texas that would allow them to take the rings.

At most I agree that he should change the name, which he did. If he loses control the followers would dry up anyway. Don't forget that aside from the company name, it also has his name in it.

Re:It was part of his job (4, Insightful)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053636)

He used the company's resources and time to make it,...

If you do something at your work time,...

Would you mind providing a citation for this? I didn't see anything in TFA that indicated he used any company time or resources to maintain the (arguably his) blog.

Re:It was part of his job (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053642)

Removing "Phonedog" from the name when he left indicates that he's no longer with the company.

I'm willing to bet he tweeted about that, too.

If our judges had any real legal training and common sense, they'd be telling the company to piss off and stop wasting court time.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

stating_the_obvious (1340413) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053732)

Except that the Phonedog brand was used by Mr. Kravitz to potentially attract followers and he admittedly tweeted work related content. If it was his personal account, he shouldn't have used the company name.

Draw a clear line between your work life and your personal life... don't ever blur the line...

Re:It was part of his job (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053776)

If our judges had any real legal training they're realize that their job is to allow both sides to collect evidence in an effort to create a precedent for this unprecedented situation. Unless, of course, there's already a law on the books or an old case about Rex Masterson using the address @Edison_Rex, 1920 Made Up Road, Menlo Park, New Jersey in his private life while he worked for Tommy and switching back to Rex Masterson after he left... (Yes, Rex Masterson is made up. I think @Edison_Rex would be an awesome name though for someone working for Thomas Edison... I'm weird.)

Re:It was part of his job (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053212)

RTFA: it was not part of his job. He removed the name of the company from the handle when he left. That's all there is to it.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053292)

But he made reviews and other stuff as his day job trough that twitter, collection new followers to that company by job what he was hired to do.

It is the problem that company allowed him to do own personal microblogging trough that account as it was designed by himself to that company reviews.

Now the person wants to leave with 17 000 customers.

If person would wanted to have own personal twitter, you should never do it so that you use it to do reviews for that company.

Re:It was part of his job (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053438)

The company never took any responsibility or control over the account. He made a personal account and tweeted what he felt like, which was sometimes work related. The people weren't signing up to follow the company, they were signing up to follow him.

"If person would wanted to have own personal twitter, you should..."
If a company wants an official twitter, then they can make one instead of claiming a personal one that they never managed and was only tangentially related to their business.

Re:It was part of his job (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053358)

His job was to bring customers to the site to read his reviews and articles, the twitter account was a tool used doubtlessly during office hours as part of that job. If I'm told to do something and I make some other software on company time to help with the assigned job, the helper application still belongs to my employer, even if I remove their name from it when I leave.

Re:It was part of his job (5, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053442)

By that logic a company could claim the car you use to get to work, or your laptop you use in your workplace. He didn't develop anything.

Re:It was part of his job (2)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053472)

He didn't develop anything.

He developed business relationships with those followers, on his work time.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053766)

He developed business relationships with those followers, on his work time .

That is an assumption, and not a fact given in the article.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053540)

Your have the logic capacity of a newt.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053592)

Did he make the account on his own laptop? Or the companies?

Did he use it on his own laptop, on his own time? Or did he use it on the companies laptop, on company time, to promote company product using a company internet connection?

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053610)

He used it on company computers on company time to promote company products with the company internet.

If he also chose to do extra work at home with it, that is his *problem* not the companies.

Re:It was part of his job (2)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053678)

He used it on company computers on company time to promote company products with the company internet.

[Citation Needed]

Re:It was part of his job (1)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053770)

He seems to have worked completely from his own place, so that hardly matters. Or are you claiming that whatever he produced (including the reviews and new readers of the site) now aren't the company's property? How would you feel if you paid someone to do work for 4 years and when he left he would take it with him? That's basically stealing.

Re:It was part of his job (2)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053744)

His job was to bring customers to the site to read his reviews and articles, the twitter account was a tool used doubtlessly during office hours as part of that job .

That is an assumption, and not a proven fact. The article states that the twitter account was used for personal blogging as well as self-promotion of the articles he wrote. The entire point of the court case is to decide whether or not it was a business tool or a personal communication that included references to his work.

Re:It was part of his job (4, Insightful)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053220)

He even used Phonedog in his original handle, which further proves that this is "official." If it weren't somehow official, his employer would have claimed trademark violation on his Twitter account while he was still employed.
 
I think this is a case of an ex-employee who didn't realize he was putting in free overtime.

Re:It was part of his job (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053336)

> He even used Phonedog in his original handle, which further proves that this is "official."

Official what? It "proves" nothing.
I create a Slashdot_Jack9 twitter, Slashdot has no rights to it. The fact that I work/do not work for Slashdot is irrelevant.

Re:It was part of his job (0)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053416)

He said further proves. In this case it's already established he was working for Phonedog and made and used the Twitter account as part of his job.

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053588)

I'm not so sure you know what "proves" means.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053746)

He said further proves.

How do you 'further prove' something which has yet to be proven?

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053748)

All it proves is he infringed (past tense) on their trademark.

Re:It was part of his job (3, Insightful)

Snotman (767894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053404)

You are coming to a conclusion backwards. Because he had a twitter account with the company's name in it and they did not pursue a trademark violation, this does not mean that he did it with their permission. How do you reach this conclusion when it could be Phonedog did not protect their mark and he was improperly using their mark. If anything, I would be afraid if I was phonedog as being seen as complacent about enforcing their marks.It seems their may be a gray area here.

However, may be like software development, if his tweeting was done with company resources, it may indeed be Phonedog's to keep.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053496)

If anything, I would be afraid if I was phonedog as being seen as complacent about enforcing their marks.It seems their may be a gray area here.

I'm quite sure company employees are allowed to use their trademarks.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053554)

Why would they pursue anything while Noah was an employee? My employer doesn't take me to court every week to defend ownership of their logo on all the emails i send out. If i become an ex employee and continue to use that sig, things would likely change.

After he was no longer an employee, they started defending it as theirs. I don't know how soon after he left they started defending the account. From TFA it sounds like it was under a year. That seems fairly speedy. And, they might have politely asked for it back before starting legal action.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Xeno man (1614779) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053632)

How can you ask for something back that was never theirs to begin with?

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053224)

if his job didn't require him to create the account then it is not their property....

Re:It was part of his job (4, Insightful)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053272)

That's not the way things work, usually. If he cultivated his followers and created content using company resources (time, equipment, etc.) then the company probably has some right to it. But, it may partially depend on his employment agreement. His employment agreement probably says what it is they own in the context of content he created on the job.

This is the reason that smart people don't use company resources to do creative things lest they be owned by their employer.

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053332)

We do not know what his contract said, but it is not unreasonable to think that among other things his duties included promoting his reviews and the website. Then the account would belong to them, no matter if it was ordered or not.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053436)

if his job didn't require him to create the account then it is not their property....

Except that by using the trademarked company name in the handle he was presenting himself as some sort of representative of the company. Doing so enhanced his credibility and the followers were obtained in this context. I think this tips the balance in favor of the company retaining the account and its followers and he needing to have his personal followers to switch to his personal account.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053548)

If you've ever worked for a tech company, there's paperwork that you sign on your first day that says otherwise. I can only imagine this company had the same type of agreement.

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053252)

Yep, I agree with this. Company publicity accounts on Twitter, Facebook, G+ etc, should always be separated from personal accounts, unless the company is yours. Even then, it would be a good idea to separate the two.

I don't know who the blame lies with, whether Noah for using it for personal purposes, or Phonedog for not ensuring separate personal and company twitter accounts, but the case is straightforward. While hope Noah doesn't get sued into bankruptcy, he needs to surrender or delete his twitter account, and create a new one.

Re:It was part of his job (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053314)

I spoke with Kravitz, who says that Phonedog never knew the password for his account. âoeNo one asked me to create the account. No one told me what to tweet there,â says Kravitz, who originally created the account because that whatâ(TM)s everyone in the tech world was doing. âoeI had no inkling then that [having a Twitter account] would become an essential part of being a so-called journalist.â

This seems like a really straight-forward case.

No, no it isn't. You are wrong.

--
BMO

Re:It was part of his job (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053316)

He also created a handle which included the company's name in it, which seems like it might be relevant. Im not sure what the law says about it, but seems like it cant help his case....

Re:It was part of his job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053538)

Purely descriptive while he was an employee, as evidenced by the removal of the company name from his personal account when he stopped being an employee.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053340)

So let me get this straight: let's say I have a job that requires that I "get around town." I go buy a car with my own money, without compensation from my employer. I slap a magnetic label on the side with my company's logo while I use it for company business. Then, I leave the company. You're telling me the company owns my car because it *used to* have their logo on the side, and I *used to* use it for business?

Bullshit.

If he was directed by the company to get the account, and was forbidden to use it for non-company-related business, then the company owns it. If not, the company screwed up, and it's his.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053448)

What did the employee spend money on here? Nothing. He did use the company's time and resources. That is usually what employees are paid for, and then companies get what their employees produce. Like that Twitter account.

Re:It was part of his job (3, Informative)

nomel (244635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053568)

We don't know what his employment that he signed when he started said, so everything here is assumption.

Every company I've worked for (except my first job, round table) had a very clear agreement in the employment contract that anything I made during work hours belonged to the company, and any inventions I made outside outside of work hours had pretty strong limitations (it couldn't be, at all, related to my job). If he signed something even similar to all of the contracts I've signed, the account belongs to them.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053586)

He created the Twitter account as part of his job, so it does belong the company.

If he created and maintained it on company time, then there's probably a good argument for that. But if it was done entirely on his own time, and he wasn't being compensated for it, then good luck, you'd better be able to prove it was a gift.

Just because you're doing something that someone else feels they are benefiting from doesn't mean they own it. They have to ask for it, and they have to give you something in return for it, OR you have to explicitly state you're giving it away. "real property" is the same way, no receipt and no proof of gift, and no, you can't have it, it's still mine.

If I bring a screwdriver to work and use it, for a few months, and then go somewhere else, you can't have my screwdriver. His employer will need to prove to the court that they asked him to spend company time on making and maintaining the page (or paid him something else extra or offered some other compensation for doing it) to win this case.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053820)

If I bring a screwdriver to work and use it, for a few months, and then go somewhere else, you can't have my screwdriver. His employer will need to prove to the court that they asked him to spend company time on making and maintaining the page (or paid him something else extra or offered some other compensation for doing it) to win this case.

That's a bad analogy. He didn't "bring" the Twitter account to work. He made it while working. Nothing was taken from him. Better analogy would be like a game programmer making a level editor for the game company is making, and then taking that level editor with him when he leaves the company. I doubt you think that would be fair.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053626)

Simple solution. His last tweet on the account should be: "The company is suing me to take this account. So follow me at XXX now, and unfollow this account."

And then hand over the keys to the company. The company will quickly learn people were following him, not them, and they will rue the day they created this bad press for themselves.

Re:It was part of his job (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053654)

So does your rolodex belong to your company? What about your linked-in profile? Where is the line drawn?

Re:It was part of his job (1)

NeoMorphy (576507) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053784)

If it was done as part of his job, then I am assuming there is an audit trail of some kind? Maybe an email or memo indicating that he should create a Twitter account, what to name it, how often he would update it, what he could say or should avoid saying. They should also have made clear that if he were to leave the company then he would have to relinquish control of the Twitter account back to the company.

Unless he signed an agreement indicating any social media account created while in the employment of the company is considered the property of the company, then this seems unfair. Especially today when people are using smartphones that enable them to get texts or emails while at work.

And while a lot people seem to think that only work should happen during official work hours, remember that a lot of jobs are salaried and that your hours are not clearly defined. It's not like there's a whistle that goes off at 5:00pm signalling that you can drop what you are doing and bolt out the door. Many people perform work during their personal time, so it's only fair they allow you the same courtesy, especially when a lot of services are closed by the time you get out of work.

Dr. Paul to the rescue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053216)

Ron Paul: property rights come before civil rights

Re:Dr. Paul to the rescue (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053324)

Thanks for that irrelevant insight. The question at hand is who owns the property rights.

why doesn't he (1)

chrisj_0 (825246) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053222)

just go make the twitter handle on a new account and give them the password...

Re:why doesn't he (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053326)

Because he isn't Newt Gingrich and those might actually be real twitter followers and they aren't stupid enough to fall for that. They want the real account he used for company tweets, the one with the thousands of followers.

Why doesn't he just make a new twitter account and announce it on the old one? Along with his leaving his company and their litigious actions towards him and just walk away from that shit.

Re:why doesn't he (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053334)

just go make the twitter handle on a new account and give them the password...

Its not that simple. He attracted the followers while using the trademarked company name in the handle. The new account should probably be his personal account and those who want to truly follow him can switch. The mistake, incorporating the trademarked company name in the handle, was his so he should probably deal with the inconvenience of having followers switch over.

Of course as someone using a business account to post perhaps I am biased. :-)

Re:why doesn't he (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053604)

Of course as someone using a business account to post perhaps I am biased. :-)

Wait, you got a business account on slashdot?

Re:why doesn't he (1)

Snotman (767894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053428)

because he wants his followers. Otherwise, he would be nobody and have to work real hard to have his name recognized. May be not, but that is what an individual without the resources of a company would have to do to help build their reputation so that 17,000 people followed them.

Re:why doesn't he (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053580)

Better yet, tweet your new account, dump the old one, before things get hairy. It'll be interesting to see how many followers would actually make the jump...I'm guessing 1% range.

Given the name (0)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053234)

it seems pretty open and shut that it's the company's.

Of course I only read the summary.

Don't ever mix personal and employer projects (5, Insightful)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053274)

Don't ever mix personal and employer projects, ever.

Especially don't use your employer's name or trademarks in your personal projects.

Hell in some states, depending on your terms of employment, even your personal projects can be seized by the company.

Re:Don't ever mix personal and employer projects (4, Insightful)

Snotman (767894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053450)

Another rule is to not do anything personal on company resources. It is considered theirs because you did it on their resources which they consider their time too which means you did whatever for the benefit of them.

Oh, the irony ... (5, Interesting)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053276)

If they win, it may damage their Twitter reputation more than just leaving it alone.

17,000 followers can spam a Twitter account pretty heavily.

Re:Oh, the irony ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053394)

+17,000 followers can drop 'em like a hot potato as well...

This is a case of an idiot executive or corporate lawyer seeing all those "eyeballs" and thinking that they could "monetize" it all. Sometimes, it's better to just leave well enough alone- they're going to waste a lot of money on a legal process that'll nuke any value they might have seen in it all from orbit in the process. And, of course, they'll just blame it all on him- and probably sue him for their losses (never mind that they were their own damn fault...).

Re:Oh, the irony ... (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053510)

I think you're right, but there is a silver lining

Companies that do not act this poorly will be rewarded with more money; doubling the punishment for those who do act this poorly

Re:Oh, the irony ... (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053608)

Followers isn't anywhere remotely close to being related to active followers.

Re:Oh, the irony ... (5, Insightful)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053686)

Yes I agree completely. PR is a funny beast and someone at PhoneDog clearly doesn't understand that. People in general don't like seeing companies take petty action against employees (whether rightly or not). The damage they do to their brand will likely outweigh the value of the Twitter account they are trying to get their hands on. The longer this goes on, the worse the damage. If they weren't able to do this out of court amicably then they should have dropped it and gone on.

It was part of his job, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053296)

he created the Twitter account ON HIS OWN and used it for his job. The same thing should happen here that happens when I bring in a chair or a computer to assist in my work: you fire me, I take my stuff home with me. Tough cookies for the company.

Re:It was part of his job, but... (1)

CmdrPony (2505686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053384)

If you work on your own projects during work time they usually belong to the company. For example the 10% (or whatever) Google allows for personal projects during work time. Do you honestly think that they would allow you to take it out of the company? No, they want to drive innovation that way and use the project further down the line if it's good.

Re:It was part of his job, but... (1)

Snotman (767894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053478)

Technically a company should not let you bring anything of yours that benefits the company or they are stupid. For one, most non-competes try to claim gray matter that has been imprinted with company proprietary information, but thankfully I get to keep that. Do not let people use their own resources at your company unless they are a contractor. And I am not sure about your assertion that because you did company work on your resource, that they cannot demand to inspect your computer. That seems pretty risky to a discovery, of course, of child pornography or have German authorities put a keylogger on your machine.

Easy solution (5, Insightful)

rs1n (1867908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053328)

All he needs to do is create a new account and tweet about the issue. "I am moving to a new twitter handle nsert new handle here so please update accordingly if you would like to follow me after this handle is returned to Phonedog" Problem solved

agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053430)

..which is exactly what he should have done as soon as this became an issue. I agree. If all 17,000 followers moved with him, the old account was obviously worthless. If not, then PhoneDog kept only those followers who wanted to stay anyway... FORK.

Re:agreed (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053546)

Then again this legal battle is getting us all talking about PhoneDog. I think PhoneDog will come out with even more twitter followers than he had before.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053490)

That tweet would be too long.

Re:Easy solution (2)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053818)

91 chars:

@PhoneDog reposessed this old account. Follow @NoahKravitz if you want to read more by me.

126 chars:

@PhoneDog reposessed this old account. Follow @NoahKravitz if you want to read more by me. Keep following this if you prefer.

Both of those would convey something similar, and stay under 140 characters.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053494)

How dare you come up with an intelligent and simple solution.

Re:Easy solution (4, Interesting)

exploder (196936) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053620)

Sounds easy and cute, but if the court rules that the twitter account in fact did belong to Phonedog, and in fact was worth $2.50 per follower, could the guy be sued for deliberately wrecking the value of the account?

IANAL, but I'd be interested to hear a lawyer's comments: if you're in possession of some asset and are sued for ownership, and you subsequently and intentionally ruin the value of that asset, won't the court take a pretty dim view?

Re:Easy solution (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053650)

If the court rules the account belongs to Phonegap, that could be viewed as damaging their possession.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053754)

All he needs to do is create a new account and tweet about the issue. "I am moving to a new twitter handle nsert new handle here so please update accordingly if you would like to follow me after this handle is returned to Phonedog" Problem solved

Until the judge, who is not amused by that stunt, orders the defendant to give up the new account and hits him with contempt of court.

The property in question is not the credentials of a particular account, it's the connection to the followers. Changing the name of the account is irrelevant.

Why PhoneDog Deserves Bad PR For This (2)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053344)

This is clearly a personal account, that of his own volition he named and populated in a way that benefited the company he worked for. No good deed goes unpunished (or unjudged based on the current comments here). There is no reason a company should be able to claim ownership of a personal social networking account because the owner freely chose to promote said company's work and brand. Suing a former employee for such a ridiculous amount of money for not handing over his personal account is at best a wasted opportunity. Why not ask him to occasionally tweet about their site, especially if he left the company on good terms? Now they will get bad publicity under a public eye that has been increasingly critical of corporations acting like bullies - and deservedly so.

Re:Why PhoneDog Deserves Bad PR For This (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053458)

> This is clearly a personal account

Except for the fact that, you know, it had the company name on it.

Re:Why PhoneDog Deserves Bad PR For This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053544)

> This is clearly a personal account

Except for the fact that, you know, it had the company name on it.

Yeah, it'd be best if he loses now and surrenders the account to the company. Otherwise, given it had the company name on it, it'd be trivial to escalate this to a trademark/copyright issue*. $340k is one thing for contract and ownership disputes, but as we all know, the fucking sky's the limit once trademarks and copyrights get involved.

*: Don't ask if it makes "logical sense" or some other of your fancy nerd words. That sort of talk in court for a trademark/copyright issue will find you penniless on the streets with eternally damaged credit, and then they'd go after your family and friends, too.

Please Return to Your Slave Labor Cell by 7am (4, Funny)

h00manist (800926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053356)

You are aware your DNA has been copyrighted and patented by Humans-Are-US. As such all your labor and product are derivative works and must be produced and immediately stored directly in our Patented Human DNA production facilites.

As such we require your labor services by tomorrow at 7am. Please report to your Personal DNA Labor Slave Cell by 7am. Irregularities will result in immedia removal of all temporary-credit and life sustainment system access rights.

Thank you
Our Beloved Patent Lord

Re:Please Return to Your Slave Labor Cell by 7am (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053462)

Exaggerate much?

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053376)

Simple, pay the guy the 340 thousand it is worth

Re:Simple solution (1)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053814)

Simple, pay the guy the 340 thousand it is worth

Also simple, and arguably better, since it actually answers the underlying question of "owning" the followers:

Tweet "I have moved to @mynewhandle, and may soon lose control of this account to my former employer's spam-loving marketing department."

Then let the fans decide.

Easy litmus test (1)

gwstuff (2067112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053382)

How about he create a new handle for his personal feed and tell all of his followers to subscribe to it and to unsubscribe from the old one. If the followers care about him, they'll switch over and unfollow the old handle. If they care mostly about his professional identity then they'll stick to the old account.

Re:Easy litmus test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053440)

How about he create a new handle for the company and tell all of his followers to subscribe to it and unsubscribe from his current one. If the followers care about the company, they'll switch over and unfollow the old handle. If they care mostly about him, then they'll stick to the current account.

Re:Easy litmus test (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053532)

If he has an actual connection to his twitter followers he won't need to tell them to come(risking legal damages). They'll be looking for him

Re:Easy litmus test (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053614)

"If they care mostly about his professional identity then they'll stick to the old account."

Or, if they're completely inactive...which a majority probably are.

Did he post as part of his job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053398)

If they told him to tweet, it's a work for hire. It belongs to the company. If he tweeted without permission and got away with it, it's his boss's fault for not keeping track of what his employee was doing. In that case, he should be able to keep it. In general what you do on company time with company resources belongs to the company. If you don't get things specified otherwise in writing, you should assume things done under those circumstances are work-for-hire. Of course his *name* is his. I see this as being similar to a radio show. Old Howard Stern tapes belong to whatever station he worked for. The "Howard Stern Show" belongs to Howard Stern. I wouuld have created a new account and made my last tweet on the old account a link to the new one.

Contract (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053402)

If the company has a contract stating that the account is theirs, then it is. If they don't then on what grounds are they claiming it?

Re:Contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053524)

A company doesn't need to sign a contract for every little thing you do. If you do it on company time using company resources then it belongs to the company. You got paid for it. It is as simple as that.
Since he used the company resource (the trademark) it should be a straight forward case.

So move to another account (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053506)

Let the case proceed, start moving his "followers" to another account (PhonePhrog or something), and then when he's got them moved, give them the twitter account.

Let them have the handle (3, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053522)

They have the right to the handle with PhoneDog in it. Let them have it. But he doesn't use that handle any more; they don't have a right to his personal account.

Might have more to do with his new gig. (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053534)

Though I can't tell if the TechnoBuffalo [technobuffalo.com] gig is new, or was a side job while he was still at PhoneDog, but it looks like it was not a side job [mobileindustryreview.com] .

And Noah was once Editor-in-Chief at PhoneDog. I think they miss him. These divorces are often messy.

It was a tool that improved his job performance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053564)

“No one asked me to create the account. No one told me what to tweet there,” says Kravitz, who originally created the account because that what’s everyone in the tech world was doing.

The twitter account was a tool he used to improve his job performance, and social life, and online contacts etc. etc. etc. It seems pretty clear that it was his personal initiative behind the founding of the account. That does NOT mean that because the company realized after he created and utlitized the account that they get to take it away from him.

Say Noah was a cyclist, but decided after getting the job at Phonedog to go buy a Van, which, over the course of four plus years he customized (and decorated) to make it more effective and efficient for his job. If it really did aid his "job performance", would Phonedog then sue him to take his personal van too???

$340,000!!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053652)

I am really sick of large corporations and their lawyers trying to assign a numeric value to intangible digital content for the purposes of litigation.
Essentially they are implying that this person has stolen $340,000 dollars from them, when in fact he has created that of his own volition.
If they really want it that bad, they should be paying him the $340,000 for the account.
Watch how low that number plummets when they are faced with paying it versus trying to extract it from a single ex-employee.
This is a shameless misuse of the legal system so that a large corporation can bully a single person and steal his lunch money.
This quite simply is f***ing disgusting.

Why the Hubbub... (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053740)

This is his personal site. He wasn't paid to produce it, he wasn't subsidized by his employer, he wasn't told to do this as part of his job or that the company expected it to be turned over to them when he left. This is just more Corporate grabbing and lawyers marking territory by pissing on past and present employees.

He changed the feed handle to his name, The company has every right to start a new "@PhoneDog" if they like. If they continue to press, do the following.

Better yet;
1. Create a completely new Twitter feed call @ThisIsMyFeedAhole,
2. Explain to his following it has nothing to do with PhoneDog and everything to do with him and him alone,
3. Explain what a noxious excuse for human excrement his ex-employer is,
4. Request that all followers move from the current blog to the new one,
4. Explain as much to his ex-employer,
5. Change the original feed back to @PhoneDog and let the the corpos have it (sans subscribers), since they'll all have moved to the new feed,
6. Later if he wants, he can change @ThisIsMyFeedAhole into his name,
7. Thank his loyal followers for keeping the faith and raise a middle finger to the corporate pigs.

Don't get angry, don't get upset, have fun, get creative. Create a new feed @FonDawgShyt or @PhoneNeuter or even @FonHomET. Twitter is the perfect place to shine a billion watt Klieg Lamp on a flaming rectal pore. If you can't shame them, perhaps you'll embarrass them into sulking away and shutting up. Use parody, don't say anything bad about them yourself, let your followers know that you'd love to describe them as swirly mounds in earthy tones, but your hands are legally tied, but if other want to give voice to their opinions you can't stop them. In short, make them sorry for being asses, and make the cost of sin really high.

Couldn't we solve this with #FollowFriday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053760)

Simple solution.. .

PhoneDog creates twitter account...

Noah tweets... #FF @PhoneDog

Done and Done.

Judging from these posts... (2)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#38053790)

I'd say there's a lot of upper management from PhoneDog posting ITT.

Seriously though, the company did not create the account: The employee did. As long as he's not trying to slander, libel or defame Phonedog, they don't really have a case. If you think I'm somehow making this up, go back and look at court case documents involving this kind of stuff. Asking for a password to something that no longer reflects the company, or was never created by the company in first place is laughable, and at best, shaky grounds for litigation. While I'm not a lawyer, common sense seems to dictate that Phonedog is painting itself into a corner.

Who are those 17,000 people following? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38053804)

I used to watch Noah's video reviews when he was at Phonedog. I watched a couple of the site's reviews after he left, but gave up on the site because the guy who replaced him (no idea if it's the sites owner or not) was so INCREDIBLY irritating. I didn't follow Noah on twitter but, if I had done, it would have been because I like his style. Had he handed the twitter keys back to Phonedog when he left I'm pretty sure I would have detected the change and unfollowed just like I stopped watching the reviews. I can't help thinking that some, perhaps a sizable proportion, of the actual 17,000 followers would have done the same (by the by, that seems like an awfully small number to be getting all legal about).

There was a similar case (not in the legal sense) in the UK this summer when Laura Kuenssberg, a political journalist who had been working for the BBC, moved to a competing TV channel. First I knew about it was when she started showing up in my feed as @ITVLauraK instead of @BBCLauraK. That was fine by me, but not everyone agrees: http://wallblog.co.uk/2011/07/25/how-the-bbc-lost-60000-twitter-followers [wallblog.co.uk]

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