Are Twitter followers fans or property? Who owns your Twitter account?

Lawsuit comes down to who has the right to exploit the attention of an audience.


So Kravitz isn't writing under the PhoneDog name, had permission to keep using the account and isn't using the list of followers to compete with or attack his previous employer.

In divorce or job change, how do you divide the friends?

Media companies are often successful in suits arguing that they created and should continue to own names and character of pseudonyms made up as bylines for opinion, gossip or advice columns such as InfoWorld's Robert X. Cringeley or eWeek's Spencer F. Katt, even if the writers who made the pseudonyms famous quit.

Kravitz isn't trying to hold onto the name or the PhoneDog character, however, and PhoneDog isn't suing for those reasons.

It's suing because it considers Kravitz' 17,000 followers to be a customer list of which it has been deprived.

If the court agrees, how would Kravitz give those followers back? A list of their Twitter handles would give PhoneDog back its list, but as a static set of addresses, not an active audience of followers willing to tune in to each tweet.

Transferring the account back to PhoneDog would fix that, but what about any followers Kravitz attracted in the mean time and any damage to the name he tweets under now? Should PhoneDog get those as compensation for not having asked for the account back earlier?

Should Kravitz be fined? If, as he said, he had permission to take the account and changed the name to avoid confusion with his former employer, what has he done wrong that deserves several hundred thousand dollars worth of compensation?

If the court decides PhoneDog – which has plenty of other bloggers, reviewers and other sources of content – is demanding Kravitz' account back as retribution, what kind of compensation would it have to pony up and what effect (if any) would that have on Kravitz' suit for back pay?

What about the rights of the followers, who signed up to read Kravitz specifically, not the corporate entity PhoneDog. Should they be given the chance to opt out before any division of followers?

How granular does that have to be? Do Kravitz' new followers have to opt out, or are they considered his property rather than PhoneDog's?

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