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Who Owns a Terminated Employee's Twitter Account?

Twitter On his Spam Notes blog, Venkat Balasubramani attempts to answer an interesting question inspired by CNN's recent firing of anchor Rich Sanchez for comments he made about comedian Jon Stewart. The question, first posed by Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb, is who owns the rights to Sanchez's CNN-branded Twitter account (@ricksanchezcnn) with over 146,000 followers? Kirkpatrick asks: "Does Sanchez own his Twitter account or does CNN? Ought he be required to remove the reference to CNN from his name?"

Venkat writes that absent an agreement governing the right to the username, the issue is quite muddy. He believes Sanchez could argue that "if he built up a fan-base as a result of his popularity, he's not required to turn over his 'fans' to his employer." CNN, on the other hand, could counter that Sanchez "gained these followers by exploiting the CNN brand and by using company resources." Venkat concludes that Sanchez's position is probably stronger, but that he probably cannot keep the letters "CNN" in his username.

Venkat adds that CNN and its media peers would be well-served to start addressing ownership of social media accounts via contract. Such an agreement, he notes, could have provided that upon termination:

(1) Sanchez would stop using the account immediately;

(2) CNN would have access to Sanchez's password at all times;

(3) Sanchez would not post any public statements without CNN's approval; and

(4) Sanchez would turn over the account to CNN. 


Posted by Bruce Carton on October 4, 2010 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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