back to article Death match between site and writer over Twitter account

A mobile products review site is locked in a fierce battle with one of its former writers over who is the rightful owner of a Twitter account with 17,000 followers that was set up before he ended his employment. PhoneDog sued Noah Kravitz in July in a complaint that claimed the password and followers for the Twitter account @ …


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  1. Mike Row

    Tradesmen own their tools.

    A Trade is by definition, "An occupation, especially one requiring skilled labor; craft: the building trades, including carpentry, masonry, plumbing, and electrical installation." The skill labour requires the the Skill of using specialized tools in practice of the trade. As such, Tradesmen are expected and usually required to provide their own tools so they can practice their trade.

    The Twitter account in question was being used by the journalist to practice his trade. IT had his name on it. (all of my tools have my id on them too).

    It follows that the account was and is a specialized tool of the Skilled Trades Person employed to practice his trade and the tool goes with him when he goes to his next job, contract or appointment.

    They should get over it.

    The followers of the account were following the author not the company.

    Even Hair Dressers have "followers" who will follow them to the next Salon. Nothing the company can do about it. The followers don't belong to either.

    1. Cameron Colley

      No, the owner of the tools owns the tools.

      If I walked out of one of my first jobs with a fork-lift truck I doubt anyone would have suggested I be allowed to keep it. Same really goes for the box-cutters I used also.

      OK, so how about something more trade-y and along a similar vein -- if I wrote an application for my employer then I wouldn't expect to be able to take the application or source code with me.

      If he was paid to Twitter on an account referring to his employer then I'd say it's their account. If the account is in his name only and/or it was done whilst he wasn't being paid to work, or he was paid per story, then there's something for a judge to look at.

    2. a_been

      @Mike, now your being silly

      When the tools are provided by your employer, you don't get to own them unless stated in your terms of employment. Thats why airlines can hire pilots etc.

      Having said that the judge is clearly a tool without a clue for accepting the $2.5 per month per twitter follower.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        "....$2.5 per month per twitter follower."

        Well they said it was an "industry standard". Presumably this means that some manager, better equipped in the smarts department than most, once asked if his company's 140-character bullshitting campaign was worth it and a PR flack pulled the figure out of their arse.

        1. Marvin the Martian

          "industry-standard value"

          Actually kudos for the judge to saying this is such a uselessly bad calculation that bringing the suit is doubtful, the alleged $340K not even being at first glance worth $75K. The [magic number] $2.5 is already taking into account the average time of following! So 17K times $2.5 it is, tops.

          The resolution seems so simple -- you cannot claim to have "Worker@Company" belong to the (ex)worker as that's now misrepresentation (and any negative note open to defamation lawsuit), NOR to the company (a public relations disaster waiting to happen -- readers believe it's a real person then they find out it's a ghostwriting committee?). Just write a final message and shut down the account.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


            In future, use (company name) + (topic area / random number) for these accounts. @PhoneDog263 doesn't look at all like individual property. The password is a bit trickier, of course.

            Then again, I suspect the account may turn out to be the legal property of Twitter itself anyway.

            And as a follower (sometimes, of other accounts), I don't belong to the people I'm following, I belong to me, surely?

    3. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Tradesmen own their tools

      In isolation your analogy is valid, however, in this case the "tool" is just a "tool bag" and the contents of the bag were put there on company time and as a result of company resources, the fact that the bag had the company name on it probably has an upshot too, the followers were collected as part of the company operation.

      If a programmer used his own pad to design a program or process (on company time) it would still be the "property" of the company, obviously the $2.50 is a made up number so that the company can get the account, but I guess the law just doesn't cover this set of circumstances.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's not about the account. It's about the followers. Sort of the "confirmed upt in spammables" that marketeering salivates over. Whether to call that a "trade secret", well. Obiously the list is not secret. But managing to attract that many followers, you could very well argue constitues something similar to the proverbial "secret sauce". That's not to say handing over the account (and so handing over the followers) would do anyone any good; the following might just up and vanish in a forthnight.

    How tradable are "followers"? I'd say, not very. (What do you want to do, wrap them up in CDOs?) But then that might just show how out of touch I am with homo consumens twittensus.

    Still and all, they probably should have set up a role account for him for use with the company on the understanding that it is a company account. If it was set up by him, as a freelance professional service, even for use at the company, it might very well pan out the other way. Note that either way this muddies up the corporate/private boundary. Just what part is what he brings to the company and what part is company "riding" on what he does?

    I'd mutter something about "role addresses", but that seems to be a hard concept for most.

  3. Asgard

    Hold on, so does that mean we are each worth $2.50 per month to The Reg? ;)

    ... Hmmm... and Christmas is so near as well, just in time to thank us. Hint hint. ;)

    1. Haku

      I would suggest El Reg organise a pub meeting near christmas for forum posters so we could argue the finer points about life the universe and everything face-to-face, with everyone wearing name tags showing their forum name.

      But I suspect too many people would turn up wearing V for Vendetta masks and name tags saying "Anonymous Coward"...

  4. Justin Clements

    $340k you say?

    so......that makes my Twitter account worth £15 then....

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