Who owns the Twitter account? The employee or the employer? - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Who owns the Twitter account? The employee or the employer?

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Gary Perlmuter is an attorney with the law firm Asker Perlmuter in Farmington Hills. He joins Fox 2's Murray Feldman in the Job Shop to discuss social media rights.

He provides the following article for the discussion:

The problem:  One issue that is hot in the courts is which party owns the employer's Twitter account, the employer or the employee? This dispute arises when an employee creates a Twitter account for the employer and amasses lots of followers, and then the employee quits or is terminated and claims ownership of the Twitter account. Apparently, many employers have an employee create a Twitter account and let the employee handle the tweets. The employer has a strong interest in the Twitter account, but the employee controls it from his/her smart phone. Sometimes the account is even under the employee's name or a name that is not readily identifiable with the employer.  These cases end up in court. 

How to solve it: The business' Twitter account should be created by the employer/owner of the company and not by a non-owner employee. Further, the account should be controlled by the owner. If the owner gives the employee the duties or rights to maintain the Twitter account and to "tweet" for the employer, then such responsibilities and the limitations that come with it should be set forth in writing with the employee, preferable by an employer policy statement that the employee signs (or as part of the employment contract).

Further: the use of social media by employers to police employees is a hot issue. Employers should be very careful not to invade the privacy of their employees when utilizing social media to check up on employees and even discipline them. Employers should have written employment policies or handbooks addressing this issue and advising employees that they have no expectation of privacy in anything they post online, whether in a blog or in other social media. Further, these policies and handbooks should also advise employees that anything posted via company computer or smart phone is subject to review by the employer and that there is no privacy in anything posted through company devices.

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