Posted November 26th, 2012 in Legal Insights
My Followers, Not Yours!
There’s no question that social media now pervades both employees’ personal and professional lives, but in instances where employees are sanctioned to use social media for business purposes, who ultimately owns social media entities like Twitter handles and followers and LinkedIn connections? Employees are transient, but can they pack up their social media accounts along with their desk belongings as they head out the door? Nilan Johnson Lewis Shareholder Sandra Jezierski likens the issue to more traditional scenarios where salespersons take customer lists when leaving an organization, and says that a failure to establish ownership of social media properties can result in valuable losses of mindshare and marketshare. This is especially true, adds Jezierski, when it pertains to individuals, including C-suite executives, who are key to an organization’s overall sales and image. “The case law is just surfacing now, but potential liabilities include everything from misappropriation of trade secrets to violations of non-compete agreements.” She says prevention is the best prescription, and urges employers to take an upfront approach by implementing social media policies. Still, Jezierski acknowledges that the answers aren’t always clear and can vary depending on the instance. “There are risks to weigh. For example, some organizations require its social media-sanctioned employees to include disclaimers that their posts are not necessarily the opinion of their employer, but doing so could weaken an argument that the profile belongs to the business.” Contact Sandra Jezierski at (612) 305-7547 or email@example.com.