An online technology journalist from California is being sued for $340,000 (£217,000) by his former employers in a lawsuit over who owns his Twitter followers.
Noah Kravitz, 38, the editor-at-large for leading tech review site TechnoBuffalo had previously worked for mobile phone site PhoneDog.com where he produced video blogs and reviews.
During almost four years working for PhoneDog he regularly posted on Twitter under the name @PhoneDog_Noah and built up an impressive 17,000-strong following.
However when he left PhoneDog in October 2010 he changed his Twitter name to @noahkravitz and now has in excess of 22,000 followers.
Kravitz says his former employers agreed that he could keep using the account under the new name on condition that he occasionally posted on their behalf.
He told the New York Times that the company asked him to “tweet on their behalf from time to time and I said sure, as we were parting on good terms.”
Then eight months after his departure, PhoneDog launched a legal claim to his Twitter followers.
They claim that the Twitter list was in fact a customer list which belonged to them and they are seeking damages of $2.50 per month per follower for eight months; a total of $340,000.
The New York Times reported that PhoneDog Media said in a statement:
“The costs and resources invested by PhoneDog Media into growing its followers, fans and general brand awareness through social media are substantial and are considered property of PhoneDog Media LLC.
“We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”
Kravitz told the newspaper that the legal claim, filed in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California, was in response to a claim by him for unpaid advertising revenue and back pay.
New York-based lawyer Henry J Cittone, who specializes in intellectual property disputes, said the Kravitz case could have profound implications.
He told the newspaper:
“This will establish a precedent in the online world, as it relates to ownership of social media accounts.
“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-a-vis their branding.”
As for Kravitz himself, he says he is just confused by the whole thing.
“They’re suing me for over a quarter of a million dollars [but] (f)rom where I’m sitting I held up my end of the bargain.”
Source: New York Times.
Patrick has spent more than 20 years as a national newspaper journalist covering everything from hard news to showbiz and sport. As editor-at-large of YourGadgetGuide, Patrick likes to focus on how technology can be used to transform and improve our lifestyles.