Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twitter Account Controversy ~ Ownership and Control


Who owns the Twitter Account – Employer or Employee?

Ontario Real Estate Source

By Brian Madigan LL.B.

In a recent case, PhoneDog v. Noah Kravitz, the issue of Twitter account ownership will soon arise.

The case is interesting because it presents a novel issue and that is the crossover between personal and professional interests.

This is what happened according to CNN sources:

Kravitz joined PhoneDog and was employed, in part, to blog about competitive products. The site became increasingly more popular as Kravitz began to tweet about his articles and reviews. On his Twitter account he threw in other topics that were not just mobile phone specs and comparisons. He talked about football, food, the arts and other sports. That made his phone blog more popular. Soon he had 17,000 followers on his twitter account. He left the company and initially was allowed to take the Twitter account with him. When he set it up in the first place he used his own personal information for registration.

With 17,000 followers, PhoneDog now wants the Kravitz’s Twitter account, or alternatively to be paid $2.50 for each follower per month for the 8 month period after he left the company.

This case will have some implications for the real estate industry, since most sales staff are employees from the perspective of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, (Ontario), but independent contractors for the purposes of other legislation.

Do they have websites, blogs, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google Plus and other social media sites? If so, what is the arrangement and the protocol for participation? Is the brokerage responsible for what they say? Can the brokerage be sued for comments made? Obviously, they are personally responsible, but if the brokerage is responsible for supervision, then should the brokerage see and screen the material in advance?

At this stage, it’s probably too early to tell, but the fact of the matter is that each brokerage should set up its own protocol concerning the use of social media in addition to its policies on websites and blogs.

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker is an author and commentator on real estate matters, if you are interested in residential or commercial properties in Mississauga, Toronto or the GTA, you may contact him through Royal LePage Innovators Realty, Brokerage 905-796-8888