Social Strat

If You Leave a Job, Who Owns Your Twitter Followers: You or Your Employer?

failwhale tattoo If You Leave a Job, Who Owns Your Twitter Followers: You or Your Employer?

The tattoo you can keep. (via @critter)

There’s an interesting legal case brewing in San Francisco with potential legal ramifications for social mediaites. A federal judge in San Francisco this week refused to dismiss a lawsuit between a cellphone news site called PhoneDog (yes, there is a such a thing) and Noah Kravtiz, its former reporter.

When Mr. Kravitz, who tweeted under the handle @phonedog_noah, left his job, he changed his Twitter moniker to @noahkravitz and took the 17,000 Twitter followers he picked up while associated with PhoneDog with him. In response, PhoneDog issued a complaint arguing that both the password to the Twitter account the identity of followers were trade secrets.

According to PaidContent, PhoneDog made the argument that its suit met the federal court’s $75,000 minimum by claiming each follower is worth $2.50 per month.

The company’s “industry standard” metric may, however, be a touch optimistic—reports have suggested that Twitter followers are worth less than a penny a piece.

Chief Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James agreed not to dismiss the case as frivolous, ruling that more evidence was necessary before she could decide whether the password was a secret under state law. “She also allowed the company to go forward with its allegations of conversion—a tort that involves taking and using the property of someone else,” reports PaidContent.

As for Mr. Kravitz, he may have an argument that his Twitter base was there to follow him, not PhoneDog. After all, Mr. Kravitz, now an editor-at-large at TechnoBuffalo.com, currently boasts 21,725 people following his tweets about Occupy Oakland, the proper music to inspire an end-of-day push, and something he calls the Phil Collins problem.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com