PhoneDog hits back re. @NoahKravitz Twitter lawsuit

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Remember the earlier articles about the employer that asked its departing employee to give it back "his" Twitter account? You've heard the employee's side of the story, now we finally have a statement from the employer. In many ways, it raises more questions than it answers.

As you may recall, this employer -- PhoneDog Media (PDM) -- wants its ex-employee -- Noah Kravitz -- to hand over the password to his Twitter account, and pay damages of $2.50 per month for each of its 17,000 followers. The eight months between the end of the employment and the lawsuit make a total of $340,000. Yesterday, I wrote that Kravitz denies much of what PDM alleges, and even goes as far as to say that PDM owes him money, not the other way around. Amongst the statements he makes, he says that there was no actual nor implied contract with PDM that would give them a say in what happened to the Twitter account's followers. Now I've heard from Rebecca Atwood, the Senior Business Manager for PDM. She forward on this "Official Statement"...

Since the creation of our very first account, our primary Twitter accounts have utilized a naming convention with the PhoneDog trademark to purposefully promote the brand along with the company’s editorial team. All of our social media accounts, content, and their related websites are extensions of our online publications. Our social media efforts were established to increase exposure for our web properties and to increase the brands' identity and not any one individual after he or she departs the company. The costs and resources invested by PhoneDog Media into growing its followers, fans, and general brand awareness through social media are substantial and are considered property of PhoneDog Media LLC. We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands. Many of the statements made regarding the facts of the case are inaccurate. We intend to prove this in due process.

I asked Atwood for more specifics on the inaccuracies of which PDM speaks.

I have yet to receive a reply

She declined to comment further. However, if taken at face value, this statement certainly contradicts several of the assertions made up to this point. It would appear that PDM's argument is that the Twitter ID naming convention of @PhoneDog_something indicates that the company owns the account, not the employee.

Kravitz' account was originally named @PhoneDog_noah, before it was renamed to @NoahKravitz. But the account was apparently renamed with PDM's blessing, as the publication of this farewell blog post implies.

The real key to this spat is whether or not there was a contract or agreement regarding the ownership or control of the Twitter account. Kravitz says there wasn't, and I don't see any sort of denial from PDM; it's conspicuous by its absence. And another thing: How is a list of Twitter followers akin to a "customer list"? How is it in any way "confidential information" or "intellectual property"?

In case you hadn't noticed, the list of followers of a Twitter account is public information (aside from private accounts). For example, here's the list of Atwood's followers, all 1,032 of them.

My free advice to PhoneDog: Don't insult our intelligence. What's yours? Comment below...

Richi Jennings, blogger at large

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. As well as The Long View, he's also the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.  

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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