By: Christopher M. Mason
“Most businesses understandably assume that they own their social media accounts. Why wouldn’t they? The accounts are generally listed in the business’ name, contain content approved by the business, and are maintained by the business’ employees. What tends to complicate matters, however, is the fact that social media may include overlapping ownership interests. For example, there may be a right over access and control of the account, while the name of the account may reflect another’s interest, and content published on the account may belong to yet another. Simple agreements stating a right or interest in the material on the account don’t always fully protect a business’ interest in complete ownership; in other words, the very social media accounts used to promote a business may not necessarily belong to it.
In recent years, ownership rights in social media have faced legal challenge. Employees who created, maintained, and produced content for social media accounts for their employers have won a number of cases disputing ownership rights to those accounts. In one particular case, an employee established the right to customer information gained through regular contact with them via social media on behalf of his employer. Upon leaving his company, he was free to take the contact information gathered from social media for thousands of his former employer’s customers. These risks can affect businesses with LinkedIn, Facebook, and a host of other types of social media accounts. ”
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